Oishee Rahman from Bangladesh was addicted to yaba. In 2013, at 17 years of age, she committed a horrendous crime.
Concerned about the state of their daughter, Rahman’s parents not only confined her to their Dhaka apartment but also took away her phone. Angry at the treatment, Rahman put sedatives in her parents’ coffee. Once asleep, she then took a kitchen knife and stabbed them to death.
Rahman locked her younger brother in the bathroom then asked a friend to pick her up. Later, she turned herself in and confessed to the crime. She was sentenced to death in 2015, but that was commuted to life in prison in June 2017 on account of her age and mental health.
In Bangladesh, many are already anxious about yaba use among the young. A 2014 report by the Department of Narcotic Control found that 88% of drug users were below 40 years of age. A study in the city of Sylhet in 2017 found that 55% between the ages of 22 to 29 were drug users.
Rahman’s case caused many to claim that the drug twisted her mind.
What is Yaba?
Yaba looks like candy tablets and come in different flavors and bright colors. Its components are methamphetamine, caffeine, and other non-active bulking agents. Taking the drug creates a really high level of rushing energy, one of the reasons many use it to stay up late into the night.
The drug first appeared among the elites of Bangladesh, the very group that many in the country aspire to be like. According to the (DNC), yaba “became a symbol of smartness, fashion and aristocracy.”
The R7 is the most popular yaba pill in Bangladesh, and according to the Dhaka Tribune, it can cost up to 900 taka ($11). However, it is not the most expensive, that goes to the “Controller” which can cost up to 2,000 taka ($25). The cheapest option, called “Pink Champa”, costs around 300 taka ($3.7).
Why Did it Flourish in Bangladesh?
The exact cause can’t be pinpointed due to the lack of data, but a few reasons can be surmised. For one, Bangladesh has certain characteristics that make it an attractive place for organized crime.
Drug gangs in the neighboring country of Myanmar switched from making heroin to yaba in the late 90s because it didn’t depend on opium harvests, which could be unreliable, and the small attractive package made it easier to smuggle.
When the borders in China and Thailand were tightened, the gangs looked for a new route, and Bangladesh proved to be a good option. The country has busy ports and penetrable borders; it also helped that it was a lucrative market itself.
Bangladesh also shares a border with Myanmar’s Rakhine state, site of the Rohingya refugee crisis. With rising corruption, the area is proving extremely difficult to police.
Is there a Way to Help Yaba Addicts?
According to the DNC, there are five treatment centers run by the government. In 2015, the World Health Organization reported that there are also 68 private institutions in the country.
While these institutions do provide the help addicts need, many of those who sought treatment have also relapsed.
Rehab is definitely a solution to yaba addiction, but it is not the only answer to being sober. A former yaba addict cites the support of his family as a major factor in his recovery. He also adds that addicts also “have to want to give up.”