The amount of drugs seized by Asia’s authorities has tripled since last year, according to a new statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) report released on Tuesday. The amount of amphetamines, in the form of pills and crystal meth, were seized mostly from large-volume chain of smugglers from outside of the country in record highs.
The new release indicates Asia’s rapidly growing economy has been met with a strong demand for synthetic drugs. The report was released in Tokyo, and aside from China and India’s large chemical industries, Japan is seen as one of the most lucrative drug markets in the world. The report alerts on the expansion from the rates of seizure are the highest across the world and are driven by Asia, according to the 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment .
"Japan's methamphetamine problem can be attributed to extremely high street price. We are concerned that this could motivate criminal organizations to smuggle more drugs into Japan," said Yoshiya Takesako, a National Police Agency director of international organized drugs and firearms investigation.
The markedly high drug trafficking that took place in 2013 is elaborately tied to the organized crime groups in Japan, which help traffic meth from Mexico, the Middle East, and throughout the rest of Asia. At least 36 tons of the synthetic stimulant drugs have been confiscated in the last five years and roughly 12,000 drug-related arrests were made in 2013 alone. Half of those arrests involved yakuza members, which are members of transnational organized crime groups originated in Japan. The yakuza were founded in the 17th century and are well known for their strict codes of conduct and highly organized chains of authority, with an estimated 103,000 members.
"Asia, because of its rising incomes, has been targeted by other regions of the world. Because meth is more expensive here than it is in the U.S., so you see people trafficking it here to make more money," Takesako said.
Asia is a relatively easy continent to move about, which is why its regional integration makes it an ideal location to move drugs, without the hassle of flying over or boating through large bodies of water. Traffickers target demographics that are attractive to them, especially those who have noticeably rising personal incomes, such as Japan. There is a sizeable risk decrease that allows the drugs to move quietly and quickly, according to Jeremy Douglas, an UNDOC regional representative for the Southeast Asia and Pacific.
The average street price per gram of methamphetamine is $700 in Japan, which is nearly twice the asking price in the U.S., according to Takesako.
These currently popular drugs used to be taken by poor people and even workers because it kept them awake. Methamphetamines are an addictive stimulant drug that produces an immediate an intense euphoria that fades equally as fast, which is why it’s characterized by the cyclical binge and crash pattern. It increases the amount of the neurotransmitter dopamine that makes the brain feel reward, motivation, and even pleasure, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. When the brain becomes repeatedly flooded, the user eventually needs more of the stimulant to experience the same feeling, which is why addiction and chronic relapsing follows quickly behind.
The increase of drug seizures suggests that there has been an increase in both demand and production. The supply will most noticeably hook more people on the drugs in the Asian region, and as Japan’s economy increases, drug smugglers will flock to introduce new users to meth.