Anyone that has been to Thailand may have observed that Thai people love booze. It is an important social lubricant. What may or may not be well documented is the prevalence of alcoholism and substance abuse within the muaythai community.
Ranging from a trainer who has a bottle of Leo to unwind after a hard day of pad holding to those who drink till they pass out, Thai muaythai trainers and fighters have a deep relationship with alcohol.One might say they are addicted to alcohol.
I have seen trainers from certain gyms at a table full of beer and Thai whisky. Now there’s nothing wrong with this except when it is the middle of the day, on a week day and they have to be back at work in 2 or 3 hours time. I have also seen trainers stumbling along the street at 7/8 in the morning on their way to work, still drunk from the night before. I have observed on more than one occasion, a fighter drink a can of beer moments before they are due to step in the ring to fight.
Alcoholism in the muaythai community
There is a long history of alcoholism in the muaythai community. There are numerous tales of fighters retiring and turning to drinking or cannot continue their fighting career due to heavy drinking and smoking. A common one is the story of Chatchai Paiseetong, a great fighter from the golden era who is said to have died due alcoholism. MMA fans will remember Jean-Charles Skarbowsky showing up drunk for an episode of the UFC TV show TUF. Some fighters are of the belief that in order to be a champion, you have to drink. Stories have circulated about current muaythai superstars who are very, very heavy drinkers.
Drug Abuse among trainers
What isn’t well known is drug use in the Muaythai community especially among Thai trainers in Thailand. Their drug of choice is yaba. Yaba which translates from Thai as ‘crazy medicine‘ is a mixture of methamphetamine and caffeine in tablet form. It is small, round and reddish/orange in appearance.
The effects when taken supposedly include; increased alertness and physical activity, Euphoria, Irritability and aggression, and an inability to sleep. These effects can last for as long as 8 hours. My guess is that trainers take it for the euphoric, increased alertness and energy effect it gives them. It gets them through the 2 training sessions a day and the numerous private sessions they may have throughout the day. It may also provide them with a similar high to the one they experienced during their fighting heyday. There’s no feeling like the one experienced when you step in the ring and claim victory over another trained killer. What can replace all the glory and adulation? I am neither a psychiatrist nor have I taken yaba so I don’t know.
I find it interesting that drug and alcohol abuse is so common among retired muaythai fighters and little is or has been done to address the issue.