Australia has one of the highest rates of illicit methamphetamine use in the world and the highest use among English-speaking countries. Around 2.5% of Australians over 14 years – around half a million people – have used methamphetamine in the last year. This rate is three to five times higher than the USA, Canada (0.5%), or the UK (1%). In the Philippines where there is widespread abuse is reported this rate is seen in 4% of Filipinos from teen years to adulthood, having used to methamphetamine in the last year.

What exactly is methamphetamine? And how is addiction or dependence treated?

More commonly known by the street names like speed, ice or crystal meth, and in the large urban centers in the Philippines like Manila, Cebu and Baguio, it is known by its street lingo ‘Shabu’. Both amphetamine and methamphetamine belong to a group of stimulant drugs called amphetamines.

Historical Uses

Methamphetamine was first synthesized shortly after amphetamine in the late 1890s and was approved for use in the United States and other countries at the end of the second world war for treatment of a wide range of problems like narcolepsy, mild depression, chronic alcoholism and hay fever.

Both amphetamine and methamphetamine were used extensively in the second world war by both allied and axis forces to prevent fatigue in their combat troops. The release of the war stockpile created the first methamphetamine epidemic in the 1950s. Civilian users of both drugs began to see the recreational potential and the rise in use around the world caused many countries to ban or restrict production. This trend was also seen by the use of methamphetamine by the Japanese Imperial Army in the send world war, which was one of the main factors for its introduction to the abuse epidemic seen in the Philippines in the early 80’s and in the Asia Pacific Region including Australia.

Illicit use

Done mostly in small ‘home’ labs, the illegal manufacture of street amphetamines in Australia is almost exclusively methamphetamine.

Illicit methamphetamine is manufactured in local “meth labs” and also imported from South-East Asia. The drug usually comes in powder or pills (speed) or crystalline (ice) forms. Although both can be used in many ways, speed is usually swallowed or snorted and ice is usually smoked or injected.

Effects and How It Works

Methamphetamine in small to moderate doses increases energy and wakefulness, self-esteem and sociability and sexual arousal, and reduces appetite and lowers inhibitions.

Large quantities can result in paranoia and hallucinations, and a range of physical effects such as chest pain, dangerously high body temperature, muscle spasm, brain hemorrhage, heart attack and seizure.

Regular, long-term use of methamphetamine can result in dependence and neurotoxicity, temporary if not permanent damage to the brain. This is a particular risk of Australia’s estimated 73,000 dependent users. In the Philippines, the estimated number of ‘Shabu’ users are estimated at a mind boggling 260,000 on its total reported 1.7 million drug dependents.

Methamphetamine increases the level of dopamine, the brain’s natural pleasure chemical, to ten times its normal levels. Very little else can increase dopamine like methamphetamine.

Over time, the brain stops being able to produce enough dopamine on its own. It then needs more and more to get the same high tolerance.

When a person stops using methamphetamine, they may start to feel depressed because their dopamine system has been worn out from over-producing dopamine. This is part of the withdrawal process: when the brain misses having the drug in its system. Symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal include intense craving, anxiety, flat mood, decreased energy and motivation and problems sleeping.


Currently, the main treatment for methamphetamine dependence is Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The main premise of CBT is that unhelpful thinking drives feelings and behavior. In KAYA Addiction Treatment Center Asia, located in the Philippines, CBT, Twelve Steps Facilitation (TSF) and Schema Therapy comprises their highly touted Unified Treatment Method (UTM) Program.

KAYA’s UTM has been shown to be effective, as provided in their 4, 6 and 12 weeks treatment program.

Due to the widespread use of methamphetamine in the Philippines, much experience and insight has been gained in the treatment field in the country. Its strength and effectiveness in treating methamphetamine abuse has gained reputation both locally and in Australia.

Getting Help for Your Loved Ones

If you are seeking help for you or a loved one, feel free to call KAYA at +63 917 359 9755 or send us an accomplished contact form.