EMCDDA and Europol Release Comprehensive Analysis on Europe’s Dominance in Amphetamine Production
In a new analysis titled “EU Drug Market: Amphetamine,” the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) shed light on the sophisticated landscape of amphetamine production within the European Union and its significant environmental consequences.
Amphetamine, the most prevalent synthetic stimulant in Europe, commands a substantial and steady market valued at a minimum of EUR 1.1 billion annually. The joint analysis provides insights into the entire supply chain, covering production, trafficking, distribution, and use. It also delves into the intricate processes, materials, and criminal networks involved at various stages of the market.
European Dominance in Amphetamine Production
Europe stands as a major global producer of amphetamine, alongside the Middle East. Consumption is also concentrated in these regions, with Europe favoring powders and paste, while the Middle East predominantly uses ‘captagon’ tablets. Approximately 10.3 million European adults (15–64 years) have used amphetamines in their lifetime, with 2 million consuming them in the last year.
The report highlights that almost all amphetamine consumed in the EU is domestically produced. The Netherlands and Belgium emerge as key players, hosting large-scale facilities equipped with complex machinery. Production methods typically involve the use of an internationally restricted chemical (BMK), often produced in Europe from non-restricted ‘designer precursors’ imported from China.
European amphetamine producers exhibit adaptability and innovation, simplifying traditional production methods over the years to reduce costs and equipment, while maintaining profitability. However, concerns arise regarding the export of amphetamine as base oil to be converted into amphetamine sulfate in laboratories in other EU countries, leading to potential proliferation of ‘conversion labs.’
Between 2019 and 2021, the EU dismantled 337 sites linked to illicit amphetamine production. Large-scale production generates substantial chemical waste, posing environmental risks and incurring high costs for local municipalities.
The Potential Impact of Middle East Demand on EU Production
While a small portion of EU-manufactured amphetamine is used to produce ‘captagon’ tablets trafficked to the Middle East, this occurs infrequently, primarily in the Netherlands. Criminal networks involved in the EU amphetamine trade don’t seem significantly engaged in the captagon trade. The analysis raises questions about the potential for increased amphetamine production for export to meet the demand for captagon tablets in the Middle East.
Sophisticated Criminal Networks
The report paints a picture of criminal networks involved in the illicit amphetamine trade as business-oriented, cooperative, and adaptable. Logistics support has evolved into a parallel business, with criminals acting as service providers, offering chemicals, equipment, and expertise for setting up and operating production facilities. Legal business structures are often abused to facilitate illicit activities. Violence and corruption are employed when necessary to achieve criminal objectives.
Addressing the Challenges
Drawing on data from the EMCDDA’s drug monitoring system and Europol’s operational intelligence, the report emphasizes key areas for action at both EU and Member State levels. Recommendations include improving strategic intelligence, strengthening responses to reduce supply and enhance security, fostering international cooperation, investing in capacity-building, and reinforcing policy, public health, and safety responses.
Alexis Goosdeel, EMCDDA Director, stresses the importance of tackling cross-border challenges through enhanced cooperation and knowledge sharing among Member States. Europol’s Executive Director, Catherine De Bolle, underscores the agency’s commitment to monitoring this threat and providing operational support to investigations in Member States. Both leaders emphasize the need for joint efforts to address the health, security, and environmental impacts of amphetamine production and trade in Europe.