Synthetic drugs: amphetamines, ecstasy and LSD

In Finland, Sweden and Norway, amphetamines are the second most commonly seized drug (after cannabis). Ecstasy is the second most seized drug in Ireland. In the last five years, the largest quantities of amphetamines and ecstasy seizures have been in the United Kingdom (56).

According to Europol (57), the number of production sites for synthetic drugs discovered each year in the EU is consistent at around 50–70. However, although the number of production facilities is relatively stable, advances in methodology, increased sophistication of manufacturing equipment and increasing involvement of specialists is resulting in ever-increasing production efficiency and capacity. For the time being, the Netherlands, and to a lesser extent Belgium, are major sites for the production of ecstasy, amphetamines and related drugs, but production in other Member States (Spain, France, the United Kingdom) and in central and east European countries (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland), as well as in Thailand, is also reported. According to Europol, while the European Union remains the primary source of ecstasy, production is spreading worldwide, with facilities discovered in South-East Asia, China, North America, South Africa and South America.

The price of amphetamines is reported to be, on average, between EUR 12 and 40 per gram, while ecstasy tablets cost between EUR 6 and 20 each on average. Data for 2001 show that synthetic drugs are cheapest in Belgium and the United Kingdom. Amphetamine purity is very variable, from 2 % in Ireland to 52 % in Norway. Most tablets sold as ecstasy do in fact contain ecstasy or ecstasy-like substances (MDMA, MDEA, MDA), varying from 58 % of the tablets analysed in Finland to 99 % in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Norway and 100 % in Portugal. Amphetamines (or metamphetamines) are found in 2–20 % of tablets, but various other psychoactive substances (2-CB, 2-CT7, 4-MTA, MDE, PMA and PMMA) may also be found.


Amphetamine seizures – both numbers (Figure 32 OL) and quantities (Figure 33 OL) – increased throughout the EU between 1985 and 1998 or 1999. The number of amphetamine seizures fell in 1999 and 2000, mostly because of a decrease in the United Kingdom, but apparently increased again in 2001 at EU level (58). Quantities seized decreased between 1998 and 2000, but rose again in 2001 in a majority of countries (59).

Ecstasy seizures (Figure 34 OL) have been increasing in most of the EU since 1985 – except in 1997 and 1998 – with marked increases in 2001, especially in Spain, which reported 11 947 ecstasy seizures in 2001 (compared with 3 750 in 2000). The amounts of ecstasy seized (Figure 35 OL) followed the same upward trend from 1985 until 1993, when they stabilised. However, this was followed by a peak in 1996, and quantities seized have, since 1999, again been increasing. At EU level, the number of ecstasy tablets seized seems to have stabilised in 2001, but this trend should be further confirmed by the United Kingdom data, as the United Kingdom is the main ecstasy-seizing country in the EU. LSD seizures are less common. At EU level, both numbers (Figure 36 OL) and quantities (Figure 37 OL) increased until 1993, and decreased from then on (60), except for a slight increase in 2000.

Following significant decreases in the 1990s, amphetamine and ecstasy prices have stabilised in the EU. However, in 2001, Norway reported a significant decrease in the price of amphetamines sold at street level. The average price of ecstasy tablets decreased in 2001 in most countries. In 2001, the proportion of tablets containing ecstasy or ecstasy-like substances increased in Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Spain, while those containing amphetamines (and metamphetamines) decreased. Finland reported the opposite, as well as a high proportion of tablets containing buprenorphine (23 %).

(56) This situation should be checked against 2001 United Kingdom data when available.

(57) Further information from Europol is given in Box 14 OL: Synthetic drugs trafficking.

(58) This trend should be checked against 2001 missing data (especially from the United Kingdom) when available.

(59) This trend should be checked against 2001 missing data (especially from the United Kingdom) when available.

(60)  This trend should be checked against 2001 missing data when available.