Shackled with Shabu: Juan’s Shocking Affair with Meth

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There are approximately 1.6 million drug dependents in the Philippines, with approximately 50% to 90% of them use shabu, or methamphetamine, with shabu sales reaching more than Php 77.76 billion each year. This is according to 2014 reports from PhilNews. British filmmaker Martin Butler even estimated in 2007 that there are almost seven million Filipinos using shabu.

Negative Effects of Meth

These figures are alarming and gut-wrenching. 

Most Filipinos, as with other users the world over, smoke shabu. It can also be snorted, injected or ingested. However users take meth, or shabu, they will find themselves addicted in no time at all. Tolerance increases after each frequent use and greater doses are needed to get the so-called “high”.

Meth is dangerous because it causes numerous physical and psychological damage to the body.

Short-Term Effects Include:

  • Dilation of pupils
  • Heightened attention and focus, especially on a repetitive task
  • Increased energy, decreased fatigue
  • Talking excessively
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased sexuality
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased body temperature that may cause excessive sweating and even convulsions

Meth Head

Long-Term Effects:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Dependence
  • Loss of appetite and desire to sleep
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Psychosis
  • Mood swings
  • Repetitive motor activity
  • Violent behavior causing homicidal or suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of interest in social interactions and usual activities
  • Inflammation of the heart’s lining leading to hypertension and other cardiovascular problems
  • Tremors and facial ticks
  • Experiencing “crank bugs” or the feeling of having insects creeping into their skin, causing them to pick on their hands, arms and other body parts, which then causes skin ulcers
  • “Meth mouth” or oral-dental problem typical of meth abusers, which causes teeth to eventually fall out in a matter or a few months

Meth Mouth

What Happens to a Meth User

Having used meth, users may feel its effects for hours. Meth addicts can stay awake and not eat for days. Whether by ingesting, injecting, smoking or inhalation, users will feel a sudden ‘high’, or feeling of euphoria within a few minutes. Afterwards, as this elated feeling wears off, users enter the ‘tweaking’ stage commonly associated with cocky, rowdy, and noisy drunk-like behavior. Others may even feel the inclination towards violence, delusion, and paranoia.

After the ‘tweaking’, the ‘crash’ happens, wherein the user feels a strong urge to sleep, even for 24 to 72 hours. For the abusers, they may feel fine and normal in between ‘hits’. However for the addict, they may feel irritability, insomnia, and an uncontrollable urge as they find a way to get their next ‘fix’, which is usually every 3 hours.

Shabu Abuse Patterns

  • Casual – These are those who may use meth on occasion, to lose weight, to keep awake, or for any other reason that does not have psychological addiction
  • Binge – Intermittent yet heavy use that is already psychologically addicted
  • Highly addicted – Intense abusers that continuously seek the quality of their “perfect rush” until they increase their dosage more and more; anyone within this pattern will have a dangerous ‘tweaking’ stage

Shabu’s Philippine History

Methamphetamine has been around since it was first synthesized in Germany in 1887 as phenylisopropylamine, a drug used for many applications ranging from nasal decongestion to depression. Methamphetamine as we know it as a cystal was discovered in Japan in 1919 and was then used to treat narcolepsy and attention disorders. It was also used to treat exogenous obesity. .

World War II came and meth was widely used to keep American men awake and fighting. Come the Vietnam War, it became widely used. When the war was over, meth abuse spread as military surplus became available to everyone in the United States.

It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that meth permeated the Philippine subculture, where meth use was initially confined to the fringe circle composed of the burgis or the artists and showbusiness entertainers. However, in less than two decades, it snaked its way into more subcultures, into rural areas, into academic or collegiate life, and deep into the bowels of poverty and even the most exclusive of executive subdivisions.

Today, shabu addiction does not choose a demographic. From the young teenager, to the sophisticated yuppie, to the jeepney barker to the police officer; male, female, young, old, unemployed, professional, shabu has dramatically and dangerously crept its way into the very reaches of our society–and, based on news reports and research findings, it will not let go of its ever-tightening grasp anytime soon.


Shabu addiction is dangerous to the addicts and the people around them. If you know of someone needing help and intervention, call our Rehab Specialists at 0917 509 8826 / 0915 645 2703.

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