Inexpensive Afghan methamphetamine hits the heroin smuggler route through Iran to international markets
Europe should be better prepared for the prospect of methamphetamine from Afghanistan, according to a report by the European drug agency, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Evidence suggests that large quantities of low-cost methamphetamine are manufactured in specialized facilities in Afghanistan by more skilled operators, called “cooks”.
“The full extent of ephedrine and methamphetamine production in Afghanistan remains unknown, but it could be considerable,” according to the report.
EMCDDA research indicates the availability of “inexpensive Afghan methamphetamine” in consumer markets in Iran at very low retail prices.
Seizure data suggests that Afghan ephedrine and methamphetamine (sometimes in liquid form) are potentially being reprocessed in Iran, raising concerns that the phenomenon is developing and spreading.
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Although it is difficult to estimate the availability of methamphetamine of Afghan origin in regional and international markets, chemical profiling carried out by law enforcement agencies suggests that it may have become available on the market. consumer markets as far away as East Africa and Australia.
Production within Europe (located mainly in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic) appears to be more than sufficient to meet the current demand of European consumers. But the production of pure and relatively cheap methamphetamine in Afghanistan remains a significant threat, as the drug could enter the European market via well-established trafficking routes for smuggling Afghan heroin (notably the Balkan route via Iran. and Turkey).
Methamphetamine of Afghan origin appears to be moving into other consumer markets (eg East and Southern Africa, South East Asia and Oceania).
Iran has a longer history of producing methamphetamine than neighboring Afghanistan, but there are signs that it is shifting from being a producer to being a transit country.
Since 2010, methamphetamine producers in Iran have faced increasing economic, regulatory and law enforcement pressures that have limited domestic production and led to growing dependence on cheaper imports from Afghanistan.
Iranian authorities have allegedly played a key role in making domestic production riskier and less profitable, according to the report.
Seizures of methamphetamine in the EU have increased over the past 10 years, but not to levels seen elsewhere in the world.
The current market for methamphetamine in Europe is much smaller than that for other stimulants (eg cocaine and MDMA), with consumption limited to specific countries, regions or user groups.
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“Nonetheless, some fear that interest in the drug will grow and that it has the potential to play a bigger role in the future drug problem in Europe,” the report said.
The expansion of the methamphetamine industry in Afghanistan in recent years follows the realization by Afghan drug traffickers that ephedra plants (growing wild for centuries in the central highlands of Afghanistan) countries) are a natural source of ephedrine, a precursor chemical used to make methamphetamine.
The report explains that the production of methamphetamine had already taken place in the country between 2013 and 2017, but was based on ephedrine extracted from imported drugs (for example cough syrups) in an expensive process requiring specialized chemists.
The country’s shift to large-scale ephedra-based methamphetamine production from 2017 appears to have happened relatively quickly, resulting in a “thriving cottage industry” for the extraction of ephedrine from ephedra crops. dried by relatively unskilled workers.
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