It was the price.
Phuket Provincial Police Commander Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen noted, “The price of ya ice has decreased from approximately B1 million per kilogram down to B140,000.” (See story here.)
Like any business, increased efficiencies in production techniques and delivery networks reduce costs over time for producers who can then afford to lower prices, but to appreciate where we are now with ya ice, let’s do the math.
At B1mn per kilo, that’s B1,000 a gram, or B250 per 250mg “hit”. That was already a lot cheaper than a bottle of gut-rot whiskey at a local entertainment establishment, for those wiling to take the risk. If Gen Teeraphol’s intel is accurate, that price has fallen to B140,000 per kilo, or B140 per gram. That’s B35 per 250mg “hit”, the same price as a can of beer. That’s not even pocket change.
In one way that’s kind of good news. It means that Phuket’s per capita usage rate has hit its head on the ceiling. Whatever the number of people in Phuket who use ice, the suppliers have more than matched demand.
The bad news is that any decent entrepreneur will now seek new markets, new demographics, new people to sell their drugs to. Also, the appeal of the drug being so cheap will entice other people to try it as it is now so common and easily available in Phuket. For the price of ice to fall so dramatically, the fear is that the island is being flooded with drugs and there is so much ice on the streets that dealers have to cut prices to shift it.
It also means that of Thailand’s decade-long “War on Drugs” policy has failed miserably and perhaps it's time to try something different. Recent discourse by high-ranking government officials, most notably Justice Minister Gen Paiboon Khumchaya, have explored the option of taking a public health approach to drug use and putting addicts in treatment rather than in jail. So why not give that a try?
In the meantime, if you see a crazy driver out there, steer clear. It may not be a booze-fuelled tirade you’re witnessing, but a glimpse of the ya ice epidemic lurking under the skin of Phuket’s community.