Seizures of methamphetamine reached record highs in Southeast and East Asia in 2012, according to a UN report, with 227 million methamphetamine pills recovered, constituting a 60 percent rise from 2011. In addition to 11.6 metric tons of meth in its crystalline form, the finding represents a 12 percent rise over 2011, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, announced on Friday.

The report confirmed that methamphetamine is now the first- or second-most common illicit drug in 13 of the 15 Asia-Pacific countries that were surveyed, and the use of this psychoactive drug has surged in Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Myanmar, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Meanwhile, “ecstasy” pills are also resurgent in the region, with seizures tripling in 2012 to more than 5.4 million pills from 1.6 million pills recovered in 2011.

“While regional integration positively facilitates the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and labor, it is also being exploited by transnational organized crime to expand its activities in our region,” Jeremy Douglas, UNODC regional representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.

Myanmar continues to be the primary source of meth pills in the region, and the country, along with China, Thailand and Laos, accounted for 99 per cent of all methamphetamine pills seized there in 2012, the report found.

While Myanmar had been fairly isolated from the international community until its new reformist government began opening up its markets in 2011, insurgents have used illicit drug production and sales as a means to finance their operations against the former military junta. And, despite the recent improvements seen on the country’s political front, drug production remains high.

In Asia, the price range of methamphetamine, which can be ingested, smoked, snorted or injected, varies between $3 a pill in Laos to $20 in Singapore.

“International drug-trafficking groups seek to use South Asia as a major base, given the high availability there of the precursor chemicals necessary to manufacture illicit synthetic drugs,” Douglas said. “They also continue to use the Pacific region as a transit point for trafficking methamphetamines and precursor chemicals to and from Asia.”