In 2003, drug enforcement agents in Manila found 1.1 metric tons of crystal meth and the enormous equipment used to make it. As The Oregonian describes it: “There were two steel tanks, 3 feet high and 2 feet wide, for high-pressure hydrogen reactions. A 20-foot-high factory “scrubber” filtered off fumes. Two walk-in freezers held basins of meth in liquid form.” A Mexican “superlab” can make up to 100 pounds of meth at a time, while the Manila megalab made 1,100 pounds a week. Asian meth traffickers retain easy access to ephedrine in India and China. Asia has become a meth powerhouse that officials say could easily supply the U.S.
About 15 million of the world’s 25 million users of crystal meth live in Asia. In the Philippines, where meth is known as “shabu,” a government survey last year showed 10 percent of residents ages 10 to 44 had used it in the past six months. Fewer than 1 percent of Americans ages 12 and older reported using meth in the past year. Qianrong Wang, a U.N. law enforcement adviser in Bangkok, called Asian meth a “very potential danger” to the U.S. “America’s always a big market,” Wang said, “and there’s always a strong linkage in this region, especially Chinese ethnic groups.”