Addiction | 5 min read
Medically Reviewed By
On April 10, 2023
On April 10, 2023
Yaba is a slang term that refers to a caffeine-laced form of methamphetamine and is a highly addictive substance. While initially, yaba users feel energized, the more troubling side effects range from cardiovascular issues and spasms to death and overdose.
Yaba is a synthetic substance that originates from the Southeast Region of Asia of Myanmar, Thailand, and Bangladesh, where the name is literally translated to “crazy medicine.” Yaba is a combination of methamphetamines and caffeine and is an illegal Schedule II controlled substance. 
Meth is a stimulant drug affecting the Central Nervous System (CNS). It activates increased dopamine release in the brain, giving the user a sense of temporary energy and euphoria. Caffeine is a natural substance with similar effects to simulants, especially in concentrated doses.
At the peak of its rise in Southeast Asia, the drug found a foothold in the busy working class who were trying to keep up with the demands of their booming economic growth and seeking to take advantage of powerful energy boosts. It’s also popular in the field of sex work and the party scene, being peddled at raves, music festivals, and clubs.
Together, these two substances exacerbate the physical and psychiatric response, resulting in dangerous and volatile side effects that can lead to devastating long-term health risks.  In terms of street cost, the drug is also cheap and accessible, increasing the likelihood of continued use and, eventually, addiction.
Yaba is considered to be more dangerous than other stimulants because much of the amphetamine that is absorbed remains unchanged in your system. This leads to a longer timeline of effects that begin as quickly as five minutes and last for as long as eight to twelve hours, depending on how it’s used.
As a street drug, the names for yaba are vast and can change anytime a new blend hits the public. Some common terms include crazy medicine, nazi speed, shabu, kamikaze, biker’s coffee, mad drug or madness drug, Yama or the horse drug, and Hitler’s drug.
Though it’s used with a variety of methods, Yaba is sold as pills or tablets.  They’re small and usually come in bright colors. A mix of red and orange or green are a popular color combination. Tablets are also imprinted with different logos, depending on the manufacturer. “R” and “WY” are the most common inscriptions.
Other potential ingredients of yaba cutting agents include salt, pool chemicals (hydrochloric acid), distilled cold medicine (like Sudafed®), nail polish remover (acetone), red phosphorous, drain cleaner (sulfuric acid), and lithium (extracted from batteries). None of these ingredients (except salt) are intended for human consumption, and all of them are highly toxic and can result in severe kidney and liver damage.
There are several ways users take yaba. Each method offers a slightly different activation window and stays in the system differently based on how the body absorbs the substance.
Tablets are often flavored, and taking them orally is the most common use of yaba. Another method is via inhalation, or what’s known as “chasing the dragon.” The crushed tablets are heated up so the fumes can be inhaled.
If the tablets are crushed, they can be snorted through the nose. Crushed tablets can also be liquified and injected, though this is less common.
Due to the stimulant effects, yaba users experience a temporary sense of euphoria and wakefulness. Additional side effects include:
Yaba is also known as a pleasure drug or aphrodisiac, increasing the experience of sexual activity and orgasms, much like MDMA or ecstasy. This often leads to risky and impulsive sexual behavior, such as group sex, coercive sexual activity, and transactional encounters (trading sex for other things.)
Depending on how yaba is taken, the effects can last anywhere from one to twelve hours. The following crash or comedown can last as long as ten to twenty-four hours when you experience increased wakefulness and will find it difficult to fall asleep.
As yaba use is continued long-term, the need for the substance increases. This leads to binge-using and taking more and more at once to continue experiencing the effects. The devastating potential results include:
Methamphetamine is the main ingredient for yaba, mixed with caffeine. The health risks for any long-term stimulant use are devastating, but due to this particular blend of drugs, are particularly concerning.
Withdrawal symptoms from yaba use peak within one week and are both acute and chronic. As the drug leaves the body, symptoms include strong yaba cravings, moodiness, feeling agitated, drowsiness, dry mouth, paranoia, vivid hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, severe depression, and heart palpitations. In most cases, cravings subside after one month of abstaining from yaba. [researchgate]
It may seem impossible now, but there is hope and healing on the other side of recovery. A medical detox facility will help you reach a greater level of comfort and safety while coming off of yaba and other illicit substances.
You will have access to 24/7 care and a full staff of experienced and compassionate providers. From medication assistance to meals and therapy, everything will be at your fingertips in a peaceful environment designed to help you focus on recovery.
After detox, you can immediately begin inpatient or residential treatment that allows you to remain in a safe and supported environment while receiving treatment. Here, you will have daily treatment and therapy sessions where you will be guided through the difficult but healing recovery process.
A Partial Hospitalization Program (PHP) is the next step down in care. This is where you will still get the benefits of daily treatment but retain the freedom to sleep at home. An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers more flexibility as you reintegrate back into your daily routines but still receive multiple sessions per week for dedicated treatment and support.
An Outpatient Program (OP) is the most flexible treatment program and is a good fit for those who have completed some or all of the above programs. Once you’ve developed a strong sense of personal autonomy and are equipped with practical coping skills, this program serves as the runway back into your daily routines.
After daily and weekly treatment has ended, an Aftercare plan will be created for long-term support. This plan will include emergency plans, support groups, and therapy sessions on an as-needed or as-prescribed basis.
Effective therapies during recovery include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), Mindfulness, and other holistic interventions like Reike, Acupressure, and Yoga.
Methamphetamines of all types have been around for quite some time but yaba made its appearance in the early 2000s. It is a synthetic drug that originates from the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Known as the “crazy drug,” it was also given the name “horse drug” as it was fed to cart-pulling horses to keep them active and speedy.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Schedule II drugs as those with a high potential for abuse  and dependence. It also signifies drugs that lead to severe physical and psychological consequences. Also in the Schedule II classification are drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, fentanyl, Adderall®, and Vicodin®.
Yaba is primarily made of methamphetamine though it is blended with caffeine. They are both stimulant drugs, with meth being far stronger. These two CNS stimulants are made stronger together and negatively affect the central nervous system, mood, and behavior.
Here at Ascendant New York, we understand the importance of having access to accurate medical information you can trust, especially when you or a loved one is suffering from addiction. Find out more on our policy.
 Yaba Fast Facts. National Drug Intelligence Center. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5048/index.htm on 2023, March 9
 Maher, L., Phlong, P., Mooney-Somers, J., Keo, S., Stein, E., Couture, M. C., & Page, K. The International journal on drug policy. (2011, May). Amphetamine-type stimulant use and HIV/STI risk behaviour among young female sex workers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3104095/ 2023, March 9
 Research Gate. Methamphetamine abuse in the form of Yaba Pills. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Soumi-Ghosh-8/publication/362442863_Methamphetamine_abuse_in_the_form_of_YABA_Pills_A_case_report/links/62ea79e988b83e7320a64fad/Methamphetamine-abuse-in-the-form-of-YABA-Pills-A-case-report.pdf?origin=journalDetail on 2023, March 9
 DEA. Drug scheduling. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling# 2023, March 9