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Amphetamine was first synthesized in the 19th century but was not widely used medically until it was first reported in 1931 and the drug, under the trade name Benzedrine, was introduced as a nasal vasoconstrictor for the relief of nasal stuffiness.  Its properties as a stimulant caused the use of amphetamine to grow steadily from the 1940’s through the 1970’s where it was used for a number of problems including depression, lethargy and fatigue.

According to sources it is said that methylamphetamine was once used among soldiers especially for kamikaze, suicidal pilots in Japan during the World War II.  This enabled them to continue fighting for long periods of time with very limited rest and food consumption.  These drugs reached great popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s when used in diet pills.


In genetic terms there are two types of stimulant drugs amphetamines (sulfate) and methylamphetamine (hydrochloric acid).  Both are a colourless crystal or a white crystalline powder. Further they are odorless and have a slightly bitter taste. The chemical structures and properties are similar.

The major pharmacological effect of both stimulants rouses the central nervous system, however, methylamphetamine gives a stronger effect.

Precursors and essential chemicals used for preparation of Methylamphetamine are:

  • Ephedrine
  • Methylamine
  • Phenyl-2-Propanone (P-2-P)
  • Pseudoephedrine
    ​Essential Chemicals
  • Benzyl Chloride


​Syabu is a solidified form of powdered methylamphetamine. It is an odorless, crystalline form of methylamphetamine and is more lethal than any other stimulant drugs. It also seems to be more physically addictive than cocaine and the crash or depression afterwards can last for days.

Syabu’s strength comes from an extremely high level of purity. Whereas common powdered methylamphetamine is normally cut with other chemicals many times before it reaches the average user. Ice is 98 - 100% pure methylamphetamine.


Various slang terms for crystal methylamphetamine are Ice, Meth, Crystal, Syabu, Crank, Rock.


​Powdered methylamphetamine is snorted or injected, but ice is smoked.  Ice is smoked in glass pipes.  Ice pipes have only one section in which the methylamphetamine is heated.  Heating the crystal until it turns to gas, which is then inhaled.    


​      Physical
  • Awake and alert
  • Temporary mood elevation
  • Insomnia
  • Weight loss
  • Lowered resistance to disease
  • Damage to lungs, liver and kidneys
  • Violent behaviour
  • Dependence
  • Psychotic
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Delusional
  • Paranoid schizophrenia   
  • ​The rate of the elimination of syabu differs between users according to the extent of their use of the drug.  However the effects of the drug may last duration of 12 to 24 hours 
  • Although the drug enters the blood stream rapidly blood detection can last for only 4 to 6 hours     
  • On the other hand, urine detection after ingestion can last up to 72 hours.


Most of the drug seizure on syabu in Brunei Darussalam is based on methylamphetamine in a new crystalline form.  Syabu was first identified in Brunei Darussalam in 1993 when the first seizure of a small amount (1.1 grams) was made in June.  But it was only by the middle of 1996 Syabu gained its popularity amongst local drug abusers.

Figure 1 shows the number of drug seizures on syabu since 1993.  It indicates that the situation of Syabu abuse has been increasing drastically.  With the total seizures of 95.0699 grams in 1996, 117.868 grams in 1997, 236.696 grams in 1998 and 1kilo 1.  This implication is that syabu has become the prevalent drug of choice in Brunei Darussalam.

Based on Intelligence information most syabu seized in Brunei Darussalam comes from the neighbouring country.


Several factors are believed to contribute to the growing popularity of syabu.

  • Syabu is similar in quality to, or better than, methylamphetamine used for injection
  • Smoking syabu eliminates the use of a needle
  • The drug enters the body faster when it is smoked
  • The drug effects are long lasting when compared to other drugs
  • Syabu is often odorless, colourless and tasteless
  • Syabu is easy to transport
  • Syabu sells for more than other drugs but is much cheaper to produce


Under Brunei Darussalam’s domestic law, the Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) is the principle legislation dealing with drug offences.  With the number of apprehensions of and seizures from stimulant drug offenders since 1996, Brunei Darussalam views that an amendment for the MDA to curb stimulant drug offenders is necessary.

On 23rd November 1998, with the amendment to the MDA, Methylamphetamine a Class B drug is upgraded to Class A drug, which carries a death penalty for trafficking, import or export of more than 200 grams and for possession of more than 250 grams.  The severe punishment for such offence indicates the seriousness of the Brunei Darussalam Government in tackling drug problems.


  • Anti Drug Activities in Japan 1994 - Japan International Cooperation Agency and National Police Agency of Japan     
  • Drugs of Abuse - US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration 1996 Edition     
  • Drug Control in Korea 1995 - Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office.  The Republic of Korea     
  • Illicit Psycho stimulant use in Australia - The Drug Offensive Australia Government Publishing Service

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