The methamphetamine market: global context

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This resource is part of EU Drug Market: Methamphetamine — In-depth analysis by the EMCDDA and Europol.

Last update: 6 May 2022

Methamphetamine is reported to be the most widely consumed synthetic stimulant drug in the world (UNODC, 2021). However, Europe is a relatively small market compared to Asia and North America, where there are indications that use is increasing, and to Australia (UNODC, 2021). In those regions, more than a quarter of people in drug treatment are being treated for amphetamine-type stimulant use disorder; in some countries in Asia, the proportion is more than three quarters. Those in treatment tend to be younger (in their mid-20s) than those in treatment for cocaine or opioid use (UNODC, 2021). In the United States, the injecting of methamphetamine has been linked to the opioid crisis in recent years (Jones et al., 2020) and contributed to the rise in hepatitis C infections, which quadrupled between 2009 and 2018 (UNODC, 2021).

According to the latest data reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2019, 325 tonnes of methamphetamine was seized globally (more than 70 % of all amphetamines seized), mainly in China, Mexico, Myanmar, Thailand and the United States. Following the trend of most drugs, the global quantities of methamphetamine seized have been increasing over the last five years, with amounts doubling in that period (see Figure Global quantities of amphetamine-type stimulants seized). Between 2017 and 2019, methamphetamine accounted for 13 % of all drug seizure cases reported globally (UNODC, 2021).

Global quantities of amphetamine-type stimulants seized, 2009-2019

Source: Responses to the annual report questionnaire (UNODC, 2021). Source data for this graphic is available in the source table on this page.

Source table. Global quantities of amphetamine-type stimulants seized, 2009-2019 (Kilograms)
Year Methamphetamine Amphetamine MDMA Not specified and other amphetamine-type stimulants
2009 32895.65 32741.33 6557.53 1010.51
2010 68528.39 19504.12 6073.54 560.21
2011 110893.13 29669.34 4423.97 1032.72
2012 120517.85 21863.4 5295.74 6463.44
2013 99674.82 49281.03 4917.58 4398.65
2014 115085.46 48093.01 9601.01 7761.81
2015 141470.54 51986.73 10190.98 1658.21
2016 158604 70274.49 11066.76 5371.59
2017 184811.68 50748.09 13982.05 4777.85
2018 227706.47 19309.42 11660.3 19853.78
2019 316471.14 78905.32 16059.04 44069.29

Almost all (95 %) of the 24 000 illicit synthetic drug laboratories reported to the UNODC between 2015 and 2019 were related to methamphetamine, with 43 countries reporting such facilities (UNODC, 2021). The trends show that while seizures have been increasing, the number of laboratories dismantled has been decreasing, suggesting that fewer laboratories with higher production capacity may now be more common. The manufacturing process has become increasingly complex due to changes in chemical techniques used, requiring additional novel chemicals, in part due to precursor availability.

The illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in east and south-east Asia for consumers in Asia and Oceania is concentrated in Myanmar and other countries of the Lower Mekong Basin (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam), while the large North American market is served by large-scale industrial production in Mexico, or through small-scale so-called ‘kitchen laboratories’ in Canada and the United States (UNODC, 2021). Overdose deaths in the United States involving methamphetamine continue to rise as methamphetamine purity and potency remain high while prices remain relatively low (US DEA, 2021). Methamphetamine produced in Mexico is also exported globally. Other manufacturing zones exist and include Afghanistan, Iran and Nigeria. Of note, the production of ephedrine from ephedra plants re-emerged in China in 2019 (INCB, 2021).


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