U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 54 mins

World Drug Report: There are two massive markets for meth

The United States and Southeast Asia are the biggest markets for methamphetamine, according to an annual report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“In North America, the availability of methamphetamine was reported to have increased between 2013 and 2016,” the World Drug Report 2018 stated, adding that “in 2016, the drug was reported to be the second greatest drug threat in the United States, after heroin.”

Photo: UNODC World Drug Report 2018

Tons of meth are smuggled into the U.S. through the Southwest border as cartels create increasingly potent concoctions to make money off of American demand.

“Most of the methamphetamine is coming from Mexico, and to a smaller extent other countries in Central America such as Guatemala,” Martin Raithelhuber, an illicit synthetic drug expert with the UNODC, told Yahoo Finance.

Raithelhuber added that “there is also local meth production in the U.S. and Canada, mostly in small-scale kitchen labs, from locally sourced precursors such as ephedrine-based medications.”

‘Record seizures of the drug this year’

Southeast Asia emerged as a meth hub in the 1990s as the heavily sanctioned North Korean regime sought alternative forms of financing. Early in the 21st century, the meth game moved to homegrown laboratories and the black market.

“Within North Korea, there is an incredible proliferation of crystal meth,” according to a 2016 Daily Beast report. “Defectors who have reached South Korea estimate up to 80 percent of residents in some towns have used the drug.”

In May, Malaysia made its largest ever seizure of crystal methamphetamine, about 1.3 tons, and linked the shipment to syndicates in Myanmar. A Reuters report noted that “Indonesia and Thailand have also made record seizures of the drug this year.”

The Royal Malaysian Customs Department displays 1,187 kg of seized methamphetamine worth $17.8 million in Nilai, Malaysia, on May 28, 2018. (Photo: Angie Teo/Reuters)

“Based on qualitative assessments, increases in consumption and manufacturing capacity and increases in the amounts seized point to a growing market for methamphetamine in East and Southeast Asia and Oceania, where the use of crystalline methamphetamine in particular has become a key concern,” the UNODC report stated.

Follow Aarthi Swaminathan and Michael B. Kelley on Twitter.

Read more from Yahoo Finance: