The use of the drug crystal methamphetamine has been steadily on the rise in Southeast Asia, in recent years. This week, a joint report by the National Narcotics Agency and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime shows that crystal meth is the now the greatest illicit threat facing Indonesia.
Known in Indonesia as “shabu shabu,” crystal methamphetamine usage has expanded exponentially.
In 2011, Indonesians consumed an estimated 12.5 metric tons of the potent and highly addictive narcotic. According to the U.N. report, crystal meth seizures rose 79 percent the same year.
Ade Auliaerwin, a project officer at the U.N. crime and drug office in Jakarta says crystal meth use is on the rise for two simple reasons - it is cheap and simple to manufacture.
“To produce methamphetamine, mostly known in Indonesia as shabu, it is very easy. You can get the information on the Internet and it does not require specific equipment to produce so that is why there is a lot of home-based production,” said Auliaerwin.
Of the total drug users in the country in 2011, one in three, or about 1.2 million, used crystal meth.
Indonesia was traditionally a destination country for trafficked drugs such as crystal meth, heroin and ecstasy. But now it is hub for crystal meth labs and a major supplier of ecstasy to other Southeast Asian nations.
Once confined to urban centers, the report also found that shabu shabu is used extensively across the archipelago and most frequently in the more remote islands of Kalimantan and Sumatra.
The report warns that - with high profits and an expanding meth market - Indonesia will continue to attract the attention of international drug syndicates.
Auliaerwin says it is a reality with which the Indonesia government may not be ready to deal.
Users of amphetamine-type substances, or ATS, he says, are not properly targeted by the government.
“In terms of providing of drug dependent treatment I think Indonesia is still, the capacity of Indonesian government is on providing treatment for heroin users not for ATS users," explained Auliaerwin. "The modality of the treatment, capacity of the staff, mostly they are prepared to provide treatment for heroin drug people, not ATS.”
Cannabis remains the most widely used drug in Indonesia, but meth is catching up.
The estimated value of crystal meth on the Indonesian market is $1 billion per year