EU Drug Market: Amphetamine — Key findings and threat assessment

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Amphetamine — an often overlooked component of Europe’s drug market

  • Amphetamine is a relatively inexpensive stimulant drug with a large stable market in the EU. The minimum estimated annual value of the retail market for amphetamines (mainly amphetamine) in the EU is EUR 1.1 billion, with a range of EUR 0.9 billion to EUR 1.4 billion. It is estimated that about 90 tonnes of amphetamine and methamphetamine combined (likely range: 70 to 107 tonnes) were consumed in the EU in 2021. 

  • Amphetamine is generally low in price and low in purity, although there are exceptions. In most EU countries, amphetamine is relatively inexpensive, with a retail price lower than EUR 20 per gram, and a purity of less than 20 %. Low--ice and high-purity amphetamine is found on the retail market of the main source countries, Belgium and the Netherlands. While most other countries fall in the low-price and low-purity category, some countries that have historically been associated with high levels of use of synthetic stimulant drugs report above-average prices and purities.

  • Amphetamine production is concentrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, but production also occurs in Poland and Germany, and less frequently in other countries. Amphetamine base oil is also trafficked from the Netherlands and Belgium to other countries and converted into consumable amphetamine sulfate locally.

  • Criminal networks adapt and improve methods for producing amphetamine. The most common production method, the Leuckart method, has been simplified to use less equipment and fewer chemicals, while delivering a similar final product, and thus higher profits.

  • The main production method uses BMK, which can be imported as such or obtained from designer precursors. These chemicals are typically brought into other EU countries from China and are then moved overland to the main producing countries. Legal business structures are established, acquired or infiltrated to facilitate this trafficking.

  • In the EU, amphetamine is trafficked, primarily using land transportation, from the main production region. Large shipments of amphetamine may also be trafficked with other synthetic drugs, as well as cocaine, cannabis and heroin. Smaller quantities are trafficked via postal and parcel services, typically associated with the online trade.

  • Apart from Europe, the main global consumer market for amphetamine is in the Arabian Peninsula. Amphetamine is predominantly consumed in Europe in the form of powder or paste, and in the Arabian Peninsula in the form of tablets, known as captagon. The demand for captagon in the Arabian Peninsula is largely sustained by local production, and captagon tablets trafficked from Lebanon and Syria have been routed through EU ports on their way to consumer markets in the Arabian Peninsula.

  • The supply of precursors and essential chemicals plays a key role in amphetamine production. Significant intelligence gaps exist regarding the source countries for such chemicals and the criminal infrastructure used to import them from outside the EU. In addition, criminals continue to exploit the time lag between the identification of new designer precursors used to produce amphetamine, and the legal response.

  • A parallel criminal infrastructure delivers essential logistic support to EU-based amphetamine producers. Dedicated criminal networks have specialised in supplying precursors, alternative chemicals and reagents, as well as equipment or expertise in setting up production facilities. Such actors form part of an ecosystem in which crime is strongly connected with the legitimate business environment, through the misuse of legal business structures, corruption and fraudulent practices.

  • Environmental, health and safety risks are linked to amphetamine production. The production of amphetamine on a large scale generates huge quantities of chemical waste that harms the environment, generating risks for human health and high costs for local municipalities. Fatalities related to fires, explosions or suffocation from toxic fumes caused by amphetamine production have also occurred.

Anticipating future threats

  • Further spread of amphetamine base oil conversion laboratories. Evidence suggests that amphetamine base oil is being trafficked from the main source countries, Belgium and the Netherlands, to other EU Member States to be processed into amphetamine sulfate in conversion laboratories. It is likely that this phenomenon will spread to other EU Member States that are not yet affected, and this implies that the trafficking of amphetamine oil will also increase.

  • Potential for more potent amphetamine to appear on EU drug markets. While there is no evidence of it at present, it is possible that criminal groups producing amphetamine may develop more potent forms of the drug. It is important to actively monitor seized amphetamine samples for signs of this eventuality.

  • Increased role for the EU in the trade of captagon tablets. Demand for captagon tablets in countries of the Arabian Peninsula may present opportunities for EU-based synthetic drug producers to increase production of captagon intended for export. In addition, it can be expected that the EU’s ports will continue to be exploited for the transhipment of captagon tablets that have been produced elsewhere for foreign markets.


Consult the list of references used in this resource.