China’s massive meth bust was headed for the local market

Guangdong police during the Dec. 29 raid.
Guangdong police during the Dec. 29 raid.
Image: Guangdong Provincial Public Security Department
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The nearly 7,000 lbs of methamphetamine seized in a small Chinese village last week were probably intended for the Chinese market, drug experts believe, underlining the serious and growing problem China faces with the synthetic drug.

The group involved in manufacturing the drug “is believed to be primarily domestically focused and not producing for export,” Jeremy Douglas, regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific at the UNODC told Quartz. Police arrested 182 people in connection with the raid on Boshe village in Guangdong on Dec. 29 that also netted hundreds of pounds of ketamine and over 100 tons of raw materials to make drugs.

China has long been the source of synthetic illegal drugs and the raw ingredients to make them, but in recent years the market in China for methamphetamine has increased significantly, the UNODC says. In recent years it has become the predominant synthetic drug in Asia, Douglas said, and as China has grown increasingly prosperous, a large youth population with disposable income have become users. The market in China is dominated by highly refined crystal methamphetamine, which has “become popular among youth and the nightclub culture,” Douglas said. Most users smoke it, rather than injecting it like other drugs, he said, so, incorrectly, “it is viewed as a cleaner, less dangerous drug than heroin.”

Criminals are using easier processes to make methamphetamine in China, local police said in a Dec. 29 statement about the raid (link in Chinese), meaning that production cycles are shorter and yields higher. The village of Boshe has several families “directly engaged in drug trafficking,” police said.