Yaba addiction: The dark side of Bangladesh's increasing affluence

A sign points the way into a rehab in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Since the yaba methamphetamine crisis began, 80% of clients here are using the drug problematically.

Dhaka, Bangladesh (CNN)"I'm telling your dad," said Angela and marched out with a fistful of foil and methamphetamine pills.

Rafi watched his bedroom door swing shut and wondered why he wasn't trying to stop her.
Rafi was only 24, but his skin was gray and each ragged eye was Martian red. His head jerked an involuntary tick; he coughed and wondered what to do next.
    Angela had been rifling through his drawer looking for a cigarette when she found Rafi's stash of pills that he had been smoking from foil -- known among users as "chasing the dragon."
      "I didn't try and stop her because I realized getting caught was good," said Rafi, while relaying the story.
      "I really wanted to stop because I was feeling horrible ... My parents must have known something was wrong, but I think they were in denial," he added.
      In 2006, Rafi was one of the rich kids who started using the colorful pills, known as yaba, when they first began circulating in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital.
        Today, yaba is everywhere.
        An off-duty boarder guard blocks his face from being photographed. The Naf River, which divides Bangladesh and Myanmar, is perforated by illegal vessels carrying drugs and Rohingya refugees. Officials here distrust journalists.
        Yaba is a combination of methamphetamine and caffeine. They are candy like tablets that come in different flavors, and bright colors. Users typically heat the tablet, which sits on aluminum foil, and then inhale the vapors from the melting tablets. Others crush the tablets into powder and snort them.
        The Bangladesh Border Guards are busting more and more smugglers. They seized more than 29 million pills last year, more than 35 times the amount confiscated in 2010, according to figures from the Department of Narcotic Control.
        "Myanmar is perceived to be the main country of origin for methamphetamine tablets seized throughout the Mekong sub-region and to some other parts of East and South-East Asia," said a 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report added that, in 2013, 90% of the yaba pills seized in China had originated as meth in Myanmar.
        Didarul Alam Rashed runs a drug treatment center for two dozen clients in Cox's Bazar near the border with Myanmar as part of the Non-Governmental Organization for National Goals to be Obtained and Retained (NONGOR). He has been in prime position to witness the yaba increase.
        "We did an informal survey in 2002 and found 20,000 people were addicted to drugs in the district but none of them were using yaba," he said, adding that their drugs of choice back then were weed and heroin.
        "In 2007 there was a flood of yaba and afterwards it was everywhere. When we repeated our survey in 2016 we found 80,000 people were addicted to drugs and about 80% were using yaba."

        'Yaba is destroying our young people'

        In 2013, Oishee Rahman was a 17-year-old addicted to yaba.
        Her parents worried about their wayward daughter so they confiscated her phone and confined her to their Dhaka apartment. Angry, she mixed their coffee with sedatives.
        Rahman watched their heads nod into sleep. Then she took a kitchen knife and stabbed them both to death.
        She locked her younger brother in the bathroom and called a friend to pick her up. She later handed herself in to police, and allegedly confessed.
        Rahman was sentenced to death in November 2015. In its verdict, the court said Rahman had "planned the murder well ahead." She was 19 years old at the time.
        In June of this year, a Dhaka High Court commuted Rahman's death sentence to life in prison, having taken into account her age and her mental health.
        Her case was a lightning rod for the anxiety Bangladeshis feel about yaba use among young people, with many commentators blaming the drug for warping Rahman's mind.
        Clients at NONGOR drug treatment centre in Cox's Bazar. They want to remain anonymous as some were involved in crime and drug trafficking but, for now, they are clean and sober.
        In the Department of Narcotic Control's (DNC) 2014