The Independent Travellers Guide to North Thailand

Sexy & Deadly – a Drug Called Ice

yaba and ice in Thailand

The night is welcoming, and party time has come around and what could better on a hot tropical night than some cool, sexy Ice? Nothing is quite like it, nothing comes close and Ice is cool… as they say.

Not talking about the crap that comes in your drink, I mean that mainline rush of ecstasy that comes courtesy of a pipe and some crystal meth with a shitload of dopamine delivered post-haste right into the cerebral cortex – nothing, absolutely nothing comes close. Here in Thailand its called Ya-Ice, Ice or maybe you know it back home as crystal-meth.

drug ectasySex? Good Food? Winning a lottery? Not even close, this is the existential rush, this is the real stuff. This is a dopamine based drug, the real shit that makes you happy and this Ice, this crystal meth, this Glass (call it what you will)… it exists only to make sure you are one happy, fully fulfilled and accomplished human being on the highest, the highest plane of pleasure as can be offered outside of rapturous religious states of ecstasy. Then again, maybe it is ecstatic…. It is the mainline to a short, brief, state of euphoria that is easily obtained by dealers, pushers and other providers of pharmacological happiness worldwide.

 I approached the police cell and James was inside. He had been picked up about 12 hours before, and he was totally out of it. No idea of where he really was. He was convinced that I was a German Doctor and I had changed my name to make myself into a new person. He thought my daughter was dead for two years, but somehow she was still alive and had travelled with him. No idea of where exactly he was from, no idea of his Mother or Fathers name, schools attended or really anything. He was convinced he was the Son of God, as he said. He was a Monk, and the food and water in the cell was poisoned. He had no idea where he was, what he was doing or where he had been except for a few brief snippets of lucidity…

You can get it back home in New Jersey, London, Berlin, and Toronto… anywhere really. But what could be better than a tropical beach all sultry and hot as the pleasure wafts through your veins and you can have that peak experience, that total, absolute plateau of pleasure that not even sex, alcohol, food, birth or perhaps even death can even really come this close to providing as constantly, consistently and with as little effort as smoking some Ice?

And really, the cost is so low, just a few dollars a hit. It is the most obvious example that yes – happiness can be bought and can be bought for a lot less than anything else. And how much do you want to pay for happiness? What exactly would you give to be happy… the best happy you had ever had, or will have…? It’s not a real lot when you think about it. Not at all. Ice is cool, and it’s cheap and it can all be yours for next to nothing. Well, pretty well next to nothing…

 I interviewed a few people who had known James for the last little while and found some interesting things. He had most likely been doing the Ice for weeks maybe possibly months… and he had seemed to have lost it about a week ago. He thought he had magical powers, the Buddhist Temple here was the centre of the world, he could tell if women were pregnant, his hands contained poison and he could kill or save you with a mere touch. That last week was the beginning of the end for him… Something had snapped deep down and James was, for all intents and purposes now a lost man on a sea of hallucinations.

the inventor of methamphetamineMeth was invented by a Japanese chemist by the name of Akira Ogata way back in 1919 and the drug was not popular until the Second World War. The Nazis used the drug, now called Pervitin, in almost all of their campaigns and it also became popular with Allied forces towards the end of the war. In the 1950s meth was prescribed for weight loss and other disorders but it was eventually outlawed in the 1970s. Although it is still used as a combat drug worldwide by almost every major power that wants their boys to be brave, endure the fight and come out on top – a combat cocktail as it were.

Ice is the jacked up version of Ya-ba (methamphetamine) in Thailand. Basically it is what crack-cocaine is to cocaine.  Or perhaps think of a nice solid Volvo compared to an F-18 fighter jet…A huge step up in the rush and of course the addictive qualities.

The drug delivers dopamine directly to the brain. Dopamine is the brains pleasure chemical and is usually released in small quantities with such things as sex, great food, winning; basically reward systems, those kinds of peak experiences that humans try to seek out.  To give you an idea of just how good this drug can make you feel… if great sex was 200 Units of Pleasure, cocaine would run about 400 Units of Pleasure and Ice – it runs at about 2000 Units of Pleasure. Try not getting addicted to that… quite hard really not to … and for many its actually just about impossible not to. It was also explained to me that since one can smoke it, you can take massive quantities, as compared to say cocaine that is snorted – there is only so much coke you can pack up your nose… but you can smoke a shit load of meth…

drug psycosisBecause of the mainline effect of the drug almost all real human pleasure pales in comparison. Sex is not so great after, food becomes meaningless, who cares about love, jobs, friends or much else of anything? Just take another hit and your back to ecstasy land… Along with such a massive dose of dopamine comes the feeling of self-confidence, an ability not to sleep and of course due to the fact it suppresses REM sleep one can easily suffer from anxiety, depression, psychotic breaks and hallucinations. The psychotic breaks have resulted in multiple murders – it is a common side-effect of psychotic breaks… think of the word psycho. The hallucinations range from auditory to tactile to visionary.

Probably the most heinous effect of Ice is that it breaks down the body’s ability to actually ever feel pleasure again for a lot of people. For some they do get it back but that can take months or years, for others it means nothing makes you happy ever, never againthink about that.  As a raven once said in old story “Nevermore”. Ice becomes the be all and end all of a addicts reward system, in as little as a few easy hits.

dental damage from methamphetaminesAnother effect is that it restricts the blood flow in the veins and can give users a very aged look right quick. From restricting the blood flow to the guns and teeth it also leaves one with a dry mouth, and that makes for the ever popular “meth mouth” that many suffer from. And of course there is the ever popular hallucination of bugs under the skin which are common to the users – again leading to lesions and scabs covering their body as they try to pick out the bugs under their skin.

Meth or Ice can also hasten any lingering mental illness that one might have, you might be slightly bi-polar or schizophrenic, but for sure you will have the illness full throttle on Ice.

James in prisonJames was arrested on the steps of the crematorium of the Temple, sadly ironic in retrospect. The crematorium is literally the last stop for many and that was most likely his last stop also.  Depending on what the Thai courts decide for him it could be bitter ashes for him for years to come. 

 James had decided that he was the son of God and was convinced that everyone in the neighbourhood was a threat. His adventure on Ice that night led him to throw a rock through an old ladies home barely missing her head. He then smashed into another mans home, grabbed him by the neck and looked up and asked God if he could kill him. I guess God said no, so James instead grabbed the mans three year old son and ran out the door.

 Across the street is the local Temple and the monks had heard the smashing and screams and came to the front gate where they were able to grab the little boy and get him to safety as James ran by them. It was sheer luck that nobody was seriously hurt or killed that night.

 The man whose boy was kidnapped still deals with the stress of every parents nightmare come true. His son was not able to sleep for weeks, but he is doing better.

 For myself and my family we thought that perhaps where we lived was not a good place and anymore and we moved within a few weeks to Chiang Mai.

*Update to the story. James made bail and unsurprisingly skipped out of the country. He is still wanted in Thailand to answer to the charges.

I don’t really know how one comes to decide that this is the place to destroy one’s life, the beach is open and the nights are sultry hot. So much to do, so many places to go, so much to see, it really is exotic, you really don’t need to choose these drugs. I don’t know if it is a plan or just a momentary lapse of common sense.  Maybe some do come to the tropics to destroy themselves… Maybe common sense is stored in the overhead compartment of the airliner and forgotten…

I wound up having a quick coffee with Martin who runs a rehab centre on Koh Chang island and asked him why so many people come here and do the old crash-and-burn and he said the answer was multi-layered.

Many come here and think nothing can happen to them (The Superman on Holidays Effect), for some its a total lack of common sense, but one thing he said really stood out. One must really watch who they are around. A lot of people wind up around the real pushers who masquerade as their new-found bestest friends, when the reality of the situation is they just want to make some quick cash and move onto the next person victim. They present themselves as great buddies, but they are actually the scum of the earth, he said. The best bet is to walk away from anyone who offers drugs to you, and keep walking. Between the harsh jail sentences, huge addiction problems and possibly even death doing drugs in Chiang Mai (or anywhere) is just a “really, really, bad idea”.

Another reoccurring scam going around the island is the pushers are telling Thai women that with just 4-6 hits of Ice they can clear their skin right up, they can lose weight and of course they can have lighter skin… and they will provide the first 4-6 hits for FREE!  Of course the victim will have to buy the next several thousand hits at their own expense… but that part is not ever mentioned. 

I found out Martin really hates a certain Lonely Beach there on the island of Koh Chang and if he had his way and a bulldozer… well… he smiled, and continued. There are also a lot of people who come here and already have addiction problems, some think the hot sun and Thai food might be good and healthier but few understand that are just as many problems here as can be had back home… there are a multitude of reasons really. At the end of the day though there are just horror stories, nothing good has ever happened to someone after starting…

Rehab can also be extremely hard for them as the drug is so damaging. Recovery is not guaranteed and relapse is very common

 I tried to help James. I wrote emails to the local police back in his home country, his brother, his former employer and got one email back in response (a copy paste of Jacks embassies help page). I had to wonder how long Jack had really been lost for… but what might be the last act of his life along the way was started by taking that first hit, that sexy rush of Ice and here he was, thousands of miles from his home, confused, alone and in a cell…

It really does end in bitter ashes, heartbreak and often a slow death. It really is just not worth it at all…  Ice is a sexy drug, but at the end of the day she is a real bitch. She takes everything and leaves nothing but bitter ashes of a life once lived.

meth addicts face over time

After five years of meth addiction

*Please Note: Names have been changed for the article, but the events are true. We would like to thank Martin Peters for his time and patience filling us in about drugs, addictions, ya-ba and ice… He is the Treatment Program Director at DARA, they can be reached at

About Robert

Hailing from Western Canada, Rob has spent over seven years in Thailand. Originally the editor for The Koh Chang Sun magazine, he moved to Chiang Mai and is exploring and writing about the Golden Triangle. In Canada he is a paramedic and in Thailand, well, he gets to relax...

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