The rise of drug trafficking into Asia is extremely concerning, but the scale of its impact on human security is even harder to fathom.
In Indonesia, amphetamine use rose from 850,000 users in 2015 to 1 million in 2016. In the Philippines, 850,000 people aged 10–69 years were meth users in 2015. A 2019 survey in Thailand reported that 653,000 people—or 1.3 percent of the population aged 12–65—were yaba users in the previous year; 372,000 people (0.7 percent of the population) were crystal meth users. In Australia in 2016, the number of users of amphetamines in the previous year was estimated at 280,000, or 1.4 percent of people aged 14 and older.
Among the thousands of drug users in Asia, many are driven to substances by social disadvantages such as low educational attainment, joblessness, financial instability, and even poverty. In fact, sustained drug abuse often makes them more vulnerable to these forces. Joblessness caused by a financial recession or a pandemic, for example, can lead to higher levels of drug use and other high-risk behaviours, further pushing people into a vicious cycle of lower social mobility, financial difficulties, and even family problems—all of which contribute to drug consumption and addiction.
Drug trafficking continues to endanger the lives of many here in Asia. Farmers, fishermen, businesses, labourers, irregular migrants, and even young adults alike have fallen in the grip of this sinister trade in different ways. Drug producers and traffickers in communities find themselves in a particular dilemma, having come to rely on drug trafficking as their main source of livelihood.