Methamphetamine, also known as speed, is the worst drug menace facing the United States and a growing threat in Asia, the U.S. drug control chief said Friday. Criminal organizations that produce heroin have found that methamphetamine is easy to make and offers bigger profits, said Barry McCaffrey, the White House national drug policy director.
Stimulants also pose a huge threat in Thailand, China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Japan, he said in Bangkok, on the last leg of a three-nation Asian tour. His eight-day tour seeks to promote international cooperation against the complex criminal networks that dominate the trade in illegal drugs.
McCaffrey, in Thailand after stops in China and Vietnam -the first made to those countries by a U.S. drug policy chief, met with Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, narcotics chiefs, army and police officials.
Thailand regards methamphetamine, mostly produced by ethnic armies in neighboring Myanmar, as its biggest social menace and national security threat. Myanmar is also known as Burma.
McCaffrey said law enforcement worldwide needs to respond to the threat posed by synthetic drugs that can be made by small producers, not just the major criminal organizations.
They pose a new challenge to Thailand – which with Laos and Myanmar make up Southeast Asia’s opium-producing Golden Triangle -after its “enormous success” in the past 20 years in reducing cultivation of opium, the raw material of heroin, and combatting addiction to that drug. McCaffrey said methamphetamine has become the dominant drug problem in the United States, “in South Carolina, Hawaii, Georgia and the central part of our agricultural states.”
Most of the methamphetamine available in the United States is produced in Mexico and California, he said.
McCaffrey noted that ecstasy, a euphoria-inducing hallucinogen chemically similar to methamphetamine and widely available in the United States and Europe, is spreading to countries like Thailand and China.
In a sign of its spread in Southeast Asia, Malaysian authorities this week seized ecstasy pills and synthetic drugs worth $68 million in the country’s biggest narcotics haul, according to Malaysian news reports Friday. Eleven people were arrested.