History of Drug Misuse in the Philippines

The Philippines has a long history of illegal drug use and trafficking, dating back to the early 20th century. According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the first known instance of illegal drug use in the country was in 1907, when opium and marijuana were introduced to the Philippines by Chinese immigrants. These drugs were primarily used by the Chinese community and were not widely adopted by Filipinos until the 1970s and 1980s.

During this time, the Philippines became a major transit point for illegal drugs being smuggled into other Southeast Asian countries and beyond. This was due to its extensive coastline and porous borders, which made it easy for smugglers to smuggle drugs into the country. Additionally, the Philippines has a large number of islands, which made it difficult to monitor and control the flow of illegal drugs.

In the 1990s, President Fidel Ramos launched a campaign against drugs, but it had little impact. In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte was elected on a platform that included a promise to crack down on illegal drugs and crime. Since taking office, Duterte has launched an aggressive “war on drugs” that has led to thousands of deaths and widespread human rights abuses. The tactics used by the Philippines National Police (PNP) and other security forces have been widely criticized by human rights organizations and international bodies, including the United Nations.

Human Rights Watch reported that the Philippines police have killed thousands of suspected drug users and dealers in a wave of extrajudicial executions that began in July 2016. The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnès Callamard, has said that Duterte’s war on drugs could constitute crimes against humanity.

Despite the ongoing efforts of the government, the drug problem in the Philippines remains a significant issue. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of methamphetamine (shabu) use in the world, and the illegal drug trade continues to fuel corruption and violence in the country. In 2021, the Philippines had one of the highest rates of methamphetamine (shabu) use in the world, with an estimated 3.7 million users, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).


  • Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
  • Human Rights Watch (HRW)
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
  • UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, Agnès Callamard

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