North Korea apparently has a "miracle" drug that cures cancer, but very little methamphetamine. In an attempt to curb defections, illegal phone calls, human trafficking, and drug smuggling, "border control has become a lot tighter, making methamphetamine harder to get," a source tells the Daily NK. "In the past, you could get meth in provincial black markets, but these days this has become more challenging, so people are seeking out places where it’s [still] being made." Some in Hyesan, on North Korea's border with China, are known to travel 360 miles round trip on foot through the mountains to Hamhung just to get their kick. As a result, the source says government officials are now patrolling the streets of Hamhung and other meth-producing cities like Sunchon.
That’s an interesting change of pace from two years ago when North Korea claimed "the illegal use, trafficking, and production of drugs which reduce human beings into mental cripples do not exist," per the Guardian. Despite the strict language, North Korea has been accused of profiting from the drug trade, and officials are said to appreciate a gift of the drug "ice." Growing addictions appear to be linked to the country's faltering medical system; most people are forced to pay for medication and instead turn to crystal meth and opium. One man in North Korea says he began using opium to treat an inflammation in the gallbladder. Now, "in difficult times like this, I can't seem to get by without my drugs," he says. "I can't live with my head clear." (A drought in the country is raising fears of food shortages.)