The production and sale of illicit drugs is one of the most profitable areas for organised crime groups. EU citizens are estimated to spend over EUR 30 billion every year on purchasing illicit drugs.
The production and sale of illicit drugs is one of the most profitable areas for organised crime groups. EU citizens are estimated to spend over EUR 30 billion every year on purchasing illicit drugs. This has tremendous negative consequences, both at individual level, leading to physical and mental health problems for users, but also at society level, causing violence and corruption. To curb the availability of illegal drugs, it is crucial to prevent organised crime groups from getting their hands on the chemicals they need to produce them. These chemicals are called drug precursors.
On 30 November, the European Commission published a report on the evaluation of the EU’s drug precursor policy, which has been conducted in consultation with stakeholders at EU and national level. The evaluation found that, while the EU drug precursor policy is overall still effective, there is a need to address the production and trafficking of ‘designer-precursors.’ These are chemicals that are purposefully made to circumvent controls by the authorities and usually have no known legitimate use. The report found that criminals are much quicker to create new substances than the EU can list them as illegal under the current drug precursor legislation.
Moreover, further action is needed to strengthen the fight against the diversion and trafficking in drug precursors. On one hand, the private sector, and particularly the chemical industry, must work more closely with authorities to identify suspicious orders. At the same time, in it important to look into ways to reduce the administrative burden on operators and competent authorities. For example, at EU level, import and export procedures for drug precursors could be linked to the Single Window Environment, leading to faster and more secure international trade.
Significant amounts of illicit synthetic drugs, in particular MDMA (better known as ecstasy) and amphetamines, are being produced in the EU by organised crime groups for the European and global drug markets.
This phenomenon appears to be increasing, with more illicit laboratories detected and with more types of drugs being made. In 2017 and 2018, at least 189 tonnes of essential drug precursors were identified in the EU. Experts have assessed that these chemicals were enough were enough to produce 170 million MDMA tablets and 103 tonnes of amphetamine paste. Moreover, the actual scope of the problem is much bigger, given the quantity of empty packaging found during the dismantling of drugs labs, storages and dump sites, and other available intelligence.
More information on drug precursors is available here.
- Publication date
- 30 November 2020
- Directorate-General for Taxation and Customs Union