Methamphetamine: A Parallel War Killing Yemenis (Video)

Sheba Intelligence | 2023-11-17 08:30 PM UTC


Qasim Ali, 27, from Dhamar, died after a treatment journey that lasted for over eight months. He had been addicted to methamphetamine, which he used in large quantities, which led to developing seizures and syncopebefore causing his death.

His father stated that Qasim was a victim of "bad friends." He added that his son did not think about the consequences of taking this drug when he first used it during a "cultural course" organized by the Houthi group in Sana'a. According to his father, one of his friends who attended sectarian courses— which aimed to mobilize and recruit young people as fighters and instill the group's principles in them, and which are held by the group under the designation of "cultural courses"— used to continuously provide this drug to some of the participants, including Qasim, and that the latter took this drug at the beginning with chewing tobacco before hestarted smoking it. He added that Qasim continued to use this drug for more than five months, during which his aggressive behavior was evident to everyone. He tried many times to beat his mother and older brother before he was transferred for treatment.

Qasim Ali is one of the hundreds who were addicted to meth. As a result, he and hundreds like him suffered psychological and nervous diseases and ultimately diedor committed crimes, including murder, rape and other criminal acts. In the midst of the absence of adequate control and mutual accusations traded by the parties to the Yemeni conflict, the drug spread in Yemen to the extent that factories to produce it were established.


War fronts and addiction 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines methamphetamine (Meth) as a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Due to its properties, it can be mixed with other substances in the form of solids or liquids.

The report author conducted field visits to psychotherapy hospitals, neurological disorders, and addiction treatment centers and held direct interviews with the addicts in Sana'a. He met 28 cases of the addicts who receivedmedical treatment as well as psychotherapy sessions. According to the management of these centers, thosecases began to appear in mid-2021 and the majority of addicts are young people of the age group (16-27-year-olds).

The cases we met stressed that they were not aware of the effects of this substance or how dangerous it was. Four of them affirmed that they received this substancefor the first time in Houthi fighting fronts, while seven cases confirmed that they had obtained the drug in sectarian courses organized by the Houthis. Of the total number of cases, nine cases came from Hadramout and Shabwa governorates for treatment in the capital, Sana'a.

Regarding the physical damages associated with meth addiction, 18 cases confirmed that they tried or thought of harming, killing or raping those around them when they were under the effect of meth. According to attendants of the interviewed cases, five addicts assaulted and raped members of their families.

The cases revealed that they took the drug for the first time to try it to help them focus and increase sexual and physical energy. Other cases stated that they did not discover their addiction until at a later stage because the substance was mixed with other components, such as hookah tobacco and cigarettes.


"Would that she were dead than an addict!u"

In Seyoun, east of Yemen, Lamees, 22, fell in the trap of meth and was transferred for treatment in the capital, Sana'a, after suffering seizures, delusions andhallucinations. She stated that she took the drug by smoking hookah to focus in her university studies. She added that she spent all the money she had and then stole much money from her parents to buy this drug before the symptoms appeared, and she was transferred for treatment to the capital, Sana'a. Her father stated that he was shocked to discover this issue and tried to hide the matter from his family and neighbors because he felt shame. Hesitating for a moment, he added, "I wish my daughter were dead than become addicted to meth."

Lamees is one of the four cases of women documentedby this report. According to the health centers management, the number is greater, but according to the customs of Yemeni society, publicly admitting a woman's addiction or disclosing any information concerning it is a social taboo. Women are usually treated for addiction. It is noteworthy that many women are involved in smuggling and promoting this drug. 

According to the documented cases, ways of taking the drug varied between smoking, chewing tobacco, and direct sniffing of the substance. According to Dr. Ayman Alwan, a neurologist and psychiatrist, those addicted tothis substance suffer from psychological and aggressive problems. The most common symptoms of addiction to this drug are hallucination coupled with hyperactivity and insomnia that continue for weeks, in addition to fits of anger, hyperactivity, and rapid heartbeat.

Trading accusations

In Yemen, this drug became widespread during the years of the war due to ineffective control and the state of lawlessness. The drug spread amid accusations traded by the parties, with each party accusing their opponents of involvement in promoting and distributing it. The Houthi group is accused of manufacturing and distributing this drug among young people, especially young recruits, while the Houthis accuse the so-called "aggression countries" (Saudi Arabia and the UAE) of flooding the provinces under the control of the Aden-basedgovernment with this drug.

video posted on social media shows a personinspecting cigarettes for meth. Checking out the displayed cigarette brand, it turned out to be a product of one of the leading companies in the cigarette industry in the United Arab Emirates. The author of this reportemailed the UAE manufacturer but has not received a reply up to the moment of the publication of this report.

Through monitoring the news and reports by official bodies and channels affiliated with the parties to the conflict in Yemen between October 2020 and October 2023, official numbers put the quantities of meth in Yemen at 3.2 tons. Data show that 67% of promotion, smuggling and manufacturing cases took place in the areas controlled by the Aden-based government and its factions. In comparison, Houthi-controlled provinces received 33% of this quantity. Hadramout, Al-Mahra, Shabwa, Saada, the capital city of Sana'a, and Aden witnessed the most widespread distribution of the drug,respectively. According to monitored data and testimonies, Al-Mahra and Saada governorates got the highest percentage of smuggling and storing meth. From Saad, the drug is smuggled to Saudi Arabia, while Hadramout governorate and ySana'a city have the highest percentage of manufacturing, promoting, and selling this drug.



Wider circulation 

Crime prevailed among young addicts and varied between cases of murder, domestic violence, suicide, rape and other crimes that spread simultaneously with the spread of the drug among young people. A drug control officer in Sana'a (who preferred to stay anonymous) states that from January 2022 to July 2023, four laboratories for manufacturing and packaging meth were discovered in the capital city, Sana'a.

The source pointed out that methods of distribution have varied. The drug can be distributed through hookah shops or direct distribution. However, the drug iscurrently added to other products at special labs using machines for making cigarette buttons, in labs formaking hookah, tobacco, and by some local confectionary manufacturers. In one case, according to him, it was added to frankincense.

A study by the National Library of Medicine shows that the use of meth has contributed much to the spread of violent criminal behavior and that such behavior is related to recurrent use of meth by young people. According to the study, violence is mainly directed atfamily members, friends, and neighbors, as well ascompanions who use the drug.

The report's author obtained some statistics showing the widespread prevalence of this drug and the number of its users. Internal statistics issued by the Drug Control Department in Sana'a show that seven labs produce and package the drug in Houthi-controlled provinces. They also show that more than 72 citizens, including five Africans, are involved in the process of manufacturing and distribution of the drug. Statistics also show that 26 out of 468 cases of youth abuse were associated with carrying out criminal acts, including 7 killings, 4 family rape cases, and 13 cases of physical violence.

The same scenario recurs in the governorates controlled by the internationally recognized government. A 2022 report shows that 313 kgs of meth were seized. The report also shows that 60 out of 400 persons of different nationalities were involved in drug smuggling, includingsmuggling of meth.

Despite their limitations, psychotherapy centers receive more than 15 cases of meth addicts weekly. According to Samah Muhammad, a psychiatrist at Al-Nuha Hospital for Psychotherapy, all hospitalized cases have a violentand criminal record against the backdrop of drug abuse. She further revealed that murder, suicide and rape are the most recurrent crimes associated with drug abuse and that the effects of the drug include delusions that lead tocommitting crimes. Samah explained that only in the case of taking the drug by smoking, non-users are affected by it due to inhaling. She added that hallucinations are initial effects that push the addict towards committing a crime.


Drugs on roadsides and platforms 

An officer at the Drug Control Department in Sana'a (who preferred to remain anonymous) says that the number of dealers and distributors of meth has risen substantially during the past three years and that legal persons were directly involved in setting up laboratories for the production of meth. He added, "You may imagine that a poultry store owner is a meth distributor and that a10-year-old girl who sells roses and tissues has been usedto sell meth at traffic lights and in front of restaurants."

He points out that some Africans who earn their living from washing cars and cleaning also distribute this substance. He explains that this drug is the more dangerous because it is easily accessible in the various neighborhoods and in the facilities where it can be secured, in addition to its low price which fell from $30per 1 gram two years ago to $14 and then to $6 per 1 gram at present. The affordable price is mainly due to the fact that the drug is a local product and that it is available in large quantities.

The officer links the rising rates of crime in some cities to drug abuse, and because of the low price and availability of meth, which is one of the main reasons for the spread of crime in some cities where the meth is distributed. According to him, Sana'a and Hadramout arethe top governorates in terms of distribution and use of this drug. The officer adds that the rate of crime associated with meth abuse has increased in recent years and that (40 %) of those arrested for committing murder, especially within the family, physical assaults, honorcrimes, sodomy, etc. are meth addicts.

In view of the absence of accurate statistics on thenumber of cases of meth users and in light of the widespread crime among the target group, lack of enforcement of the law, and lack of necessary procedures to protect society from the danger of meth abuse, this drug remains a common killer that killed Yemenis more than the war did. Qasim Ali's father and hundreds ofothers are still sad because this destructive drug has killed some of their dearest ones.