Meth lab in the U.S.
On methamphetamine production, a United Nations report on drugs in June 2009 said, “What was once a cottage industry has become big business,” the report noted, particularly in Southeast Asia, where there are industrial-size laboratories. While opium and heroin production are poverty based, methamphetamine production is based solely on greed and therefore is regarded as more difficult to control. Unlike heroin, cannabis and cocaine, which all originate from field plants, amphetamine and ecstasy production can not be monitored by satellites because it takes place in garages, shacks and small factories that can not be easily identified.

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) refers to a range of drugs including amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylendioxy-methylamphetamin (MDMA and ecstasy), fenethylline, ephedrine and prescribed drugs containing methylphenidate such as Ritalin. There are estimated to be 27 million amphetamines (methamphetamine and amphetamine) users globally. Global Seizures in 2019: 1) methamphetamine: 325 tons, + 43 percent:; 2) amphetamine: 79 tons, + 309 percent; 3) “ecstasy”: 16 tons, + 38 percent; 4) other ATS: 36 tons, + 82 percent; 5) all ATS: 456 tons; + 64 percent. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

A smell like cat urine or burnt rubber and discarded boxes of Sudafed are all signs of a crystal meth factory. The manufacturing process is so toxic and smelly the factories are often set up in remote rural areas to avoid being discovered. The ingredients are explosive and fumes from the process are poisonous. Many methamphetamine makers have died in explosion or by being poisoned.

Methamphetamine production is also an environmental concern; it involves many easily obtained chemicals that are hazardous, such as acetone, anhydrous ammonia (fertilizer), ether, red phosphorus, and lithium. Toxicity from these chemicals can remain in the environment around a methamphetamine production lab long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of damaging effects to health. Because of these dangers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has provided guidance on cleanup and remediation of methamphetamine labs.

Making Methamphetamine

Amphetamines are easy to make. Anyone with some basic knowledge of chemistry and some relatively easy-to-obtain starter chemicals can brew them up in their kitchen All one needs to do is combine ephedrine, a common over-the-counter cold medication like Sudafed, with common chemicals like iodine, rock salt, battery acid, camping fuel and drain cleaner. Recipes are available on the Internet. Many of ingredients to make it can be purchased at drug stores, super markets or hardware stores.

Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are used to widen bronchial passages and relieve asthma, hay fever, nasal congestion, allergies and the common cold but are also a key precursor chemical to manufacture methamphetamines. It is estimated that one legal cold tablet yields enough ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to make three or four methamphetamine pills. [Source: Richard S. Ehrlich, Asia Sentinel, May 4, 2012]

Methamphetamine production also involves a number of other very dangerous chemicals. Toxic effects from these chemicals can remain in the environment long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area. These chemicals can also result in deadly lab explosions and house fires.

Making methamphetamine can be very dangerous. Explosion resulting from carelessly cooked ingredients can blow a house to smithereens. Every year there a couple hundred such explosions in the United States, resulting in a handful of the deaths, including children of mom and pop meth producers. One explosion from a makeshift lab set up in a hotel room caused the destruction of the entire hotel.

Methamphetamine Production in the U.S.

Currently, most methamphetamine in the United States is produced by transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) in Mexico. This methamphetamine is highly pure, potent, and low in price. The drug can be easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]

When methamphetamine is smuggled into the United States in powder or liquid form, domestic conversion laboratories transform it into crystal methamphetamine. These laboratories do not require a significant amount of equipment, so they can be small in size and thus easily concealed, which presents challenges to law enforcement agencies. Methamphetamine pressed into a pill form intended to resemble ecstasy has also recently emerged, potentially in an effort to make methamphetamine more appealing to people who haven’t tried it before. As with other illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine, methamphetamine is also sometimes laced with fentanyl.

Amphetamines Supply

Meth lab in Jakarta
According to the UNODC: Supply of amphetamine-type stimulants continues to be dominated by methamphetamine (72 percent) followed by amphetamine (19 percent) and “ecstasy” (4 percent). The rest (5 percent) was accounted for by other stimulants, including former synthetic NPS such as mephedrone, MDPV and methylone (0.5 percent of the total).

In the period 2015– 2019, close to 24,000 clandestine laboratories used in the manufacture of ATS were reported to have been detected or dismantled worldwide (45 countries). More than 95 percent of them had been manufacturing methamphetamine; 2 percent, amphetamine; 1 percent, “ecstasy”; and the remainder other stimulants. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Quantities of ATS seized have continued to increase and reached a record high in 2019 The year 2019 saw record quantities of ATS seized and a 64 percent increase compared with a year earlier, the highest annual growth rate since 2001. The increase in the quantities of ATS seized over the past decade was primarily due to an almost tenfold increase in the quantities of methamphetamine seized over the period 2009–2019, while the quantities of “ecstasy” and of amphetamine seized doubled.

Despite this geographical spread, about half of the global quantities of the three main ATS are seized in just three countries: in the case of methamphetamine, that is the United States, followed by Thailand and Mexico (47 percent of all methamphetamine seized in the period 2015– 2019); in the case of amphetamine, that is Saudi Arabia, followed by Guatemala and Turkey (45 percent); and in the case of “ecstasy”, that is the United States, followed by Australia and Turkey (54 percent).

Different substances dominated the quantities of ATS seized in different parts of the world over the period 2015– 2019: methamphetamine in North America, East and Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania; amphetamine in the Near and Middle East/Southwest Asia, Europe, Africa and Central America; and “ecstasy” in South America and the Caribbean.

Methamphetamine Supply

In the period 2015–2019, methamphetamine accounted for 72 percent of the total quantity of ATS seized globally. Global Seizures of methamphetamine in 2019 was 325 tons, an increase of 43 percent from 2018. According to the UNODC: While the number of countries and territories reporting seizures of amphetamine and “ecstasy” has remained relatively stable over time (92 and 101 countries and territories, respectively, in the years 2015 and 2019), the number of countries and territories reporting seizures of methamphetamine rose from 79 in the period 2005–2009 to 111 in the period 2015–2019, suggesting a significant increase in the geographical spread of methamphetamine trafficking at the global level. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

The largest quantities of methamphetamine seized worldwide in 2019 (as in the previous year) were seized in the United States, followed, in descending order, by Thailand, Mexico, China and Myanmar. Marked increases in the quantities seized from 2018 to 2019 were reported by China, Iran, Myanmar and the United States. Since the crackdown on ephedrine-based cold remedies, the production of meth has changed, giving rise to newer chemical makeups like P2P meth. P2P meth has a different high than regular meth and has particular dangers associated with it,

Interception of methamphetamine is now concentrated on the substance rather than on its precursors While the quantities of methamphetamine seized have increased rapidly over the past two decades, notably over the past decade, a large increase in the quantities intercepted of internationally controlled chemicals used in the manufacture of methamphetamine was seen only until 2011; thereafter, the amounts seized have been fluctuating at much lower levels.

Making methamphetamine from ephedrine via chloroephedrine

Manufacturing Methamphetamine

According to the UNODC: The category of “methamphetamine laboratories”, as defined in the UNODC annual report questionnaire, includes laboratories where methamphetamine was manufactured (including “kitchen laboratories”), as well as laboratories where the refining, tabletting, cutting and packaging took place, sites where the equipment or the chemicals required for the manufacture of methamphetamine were stored and sites where equipment, packaging or the chemical waste related to the manufacture of methamphetamine was dumped. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Manufacture of methamphetamine is becoming increasingly complex as a result of improved precursor control There is still a significant geographical divide in the types of precursors used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Most of the methamphetamine manufactured in Asia, Oceania, Africa and in many parts of Europe continues to be based primarily on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine as the key precursor chemicals. While manufacture of methamphetamine in North America is now based primarily on P-2-P and a number of its precursor chemicals; in Western Europe, the P-2-P precursors APAAN, APAA and MAPA appear to be frequently used, most notably in large industrial-scale laboratories in Belgium and the Netherlands that are used not only for the manufacture of amphetamine but, increasingly, also for the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The relatively easy availability of such P-2-P “designer precursors” in Western Europe (frequently imported from China) may have favoured the expansion of clandestine methamphetamine manufacture in the subregion in recent years. Thus, in contrast to previous decades, when methamphetamine was almost exclusively manufactured across the world from diverted ephedrine and pseudoephedrine,

Precursors Used in Manufacturing Methamphetamine

Traditionally the main precursor drugs for methamphetamine were ephedrine and pseudoephedrine but government and drug enforcement crackdowns on these drugs have forced methamphetamine makers to use other precursors, some of them not under government control. . The main precursor for P-2-P meth is phenylacetic acid. APAA and APAAN, precursors for P-2-P, are used in the manufacture of both amphetamine and methamphetamine. Since crackdowns on these chemicals methamphetamine manufacturers have turned more to new “designer precursor” which are not yet controlled or haven’t even been analyzed or documented.

According to the UNODC: Seizures of precursors suggest that, in a number of countries, the manufacture of methamphetamine now begins with P-2-P (also known as BMK) that is typically manufactured in clandestine laboratories using precursor chemicals that are not yet under international control.In parallel, there have been attempts to illicitly manufacture ephedrine or pseudoephedrine from licit chemicals such as propiophenone and, in parts of Asia, notably Afghanistan, there are indications that over-the-counter purchases of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been replaced by the illicit manufacture of ephedrine from the locally grown Ephedra plant as the key starting material for the clandestine manufacture of methamphetamine. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

At the same time, seizure data suggest that there continue to be shifts in the chemical pre-precursors used to manufacture methamphetamine. Expressed in methamphetamine equivalents, the largest amounts of methamphetamine precursors seized in 2019 were made up of the P-2-P “designer precursor” APAA, which could have been used to manufacture some 2.6 tons of methamphetamine. This was followed by ephedrine (sufficient for the manufacture of 2.2 tons of methamphetamine), P-2-P (2.2 tons) (mostly manufactured out of non-controlled chemicals), the P-2-P precursor phenylacetic acid (2.1 tons) (an internationally controlled substance that, however, is itself partly illicitly manufactured) and pseudoephedrine (1 ton, including preparations). In contrast to the previous year, when significant amounts of another P-2-P “designer precursor”, APAAN, were seized (sufficient to manufacture some 10 tons of methamphetamine), no seizures of APAAN as such were reported in 2019, although illicitly manufactured APAAN may still be used in the manufacture of P-2-P.

In 2011, the quantities of internationally controlled precursors seized would have been sufficient to manufacture some 700 tons of methamphetamine, or almost seven times the quantities of methamphetamine seized (111 tons) in that year. By contrast, in 2019, the amounts of internationally controlled precursors seized could not have produced more than 10 tons of methamphetamine, equivalent to just 3 percent of the quantities of methamphetamine seized in that year (325 tons). This trend may be the result of different dynamics, notably the shift to the use of non-controlled preprecursors to manufacture P-2-P and subsequently manufacture methamphetamine and the possible lower priority of law enforcement in the interception of precursors. Ever larger quantities of non-controlled chemicals are now being used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, in particular in North America and Western and Central Europe. At the same time, there have been frequent shifts in the pre-precursors used, as a result of their controls at the national and the international levels, including shifts from APAAN to APAA and then to MAPA and partly also to EAPA.

Following the scheduling at the international level of APAAN in 2014 and APAA in 2019, the non-controlled precursors of P-2-P subsequently encountered in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine (and amphetamine) mainly belonged to the chemical groups of esters of alpha-phenylacetoacetatic acid, such as MAPA, and derivatives of P-2-P methyl glycidic acid; these chemicals are “designer precursors” that do not have any known legitimate uses other than for limited research purposes. While MAPA was included in Table I of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, effective 3 November 2020, other esters of that acid and derivatives of P-2-P methyl glycidic acid have not yet been placed under international control.a Preliminary data suggest that, before MAPA was under international control, close to 28 tons of the substance were seized in Europe alone in 2019,a which would have been sufficient to manufacture more than 14 tons of methamphetamine (range: 12–18 tons), thus exceeding global seizures of all other internationally controlled methamphetamine precursors in 2019.Once MAPA became increasingly scrutinized in 2020, traffickers appear to have started showing an interest in other substances, including EAPA, which is covered by the limited international special surveillance list. Moreover, other chemicals that are not under international control, such as benzaldehyde and nitroethane, are used in the manufacture of 1-phenyl2-nitropropene, an intermediate chemical that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine;a this has been observed in Mexico.

ammonia tank, Otley. Iowa

Meth Labs on the Global Level

Distribution of detected methamphetamine laboratories, 2015–2019: Americas: 84.5 percent; Europe: 6.2 percent; Asia: 5.6 percent; Oceania: 3.6 percent; and Africa 0.1 percent. According to the UNODC: In the period 2015–2019, most of the dismantled methamphetamine laboratories were reported in North America. In terms of the number of countries reporting dismantled laboratories, most were located in Europe (16 countries), followed by Asia (10), the Americas (5), Oceania (2) and Africa (2), while in terms of reported countries of origin of the methamphetamine that was seized in the period 2015–2019, most were located in Asia (19 countries) and Europe (19), followed by the Americas (7) and Africa (6). [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Global methamphetamine manufacture appears to be declining in “traditional” countries of manufacture while increasing in neighbouring countries Most detected methamphetamine laboratories continue to be reported in North America, mainly in the United States, where 890 methamphetamine laboratory incidents were reported in 2019 (56 percent of the global total), followed by Mexico (43 laboratories) and Canada (18 laboratories). Based on the size of the laboratories dismantled, however, the overall output of domestic methamphetamine manufacture in the United States seems to be quite small compared with several of the large-scale, industrial-sized laboratories found in other parts of the world, such as in Mexico and in East and Southeast Asia.

The number of dismantled methamphetamine laboratories is decreasing while methamphetamine manufacture is spreading: A major trend over the past decade has been the reported decline in the number of detected methamphetamine laboratories, falling from some 10,600 in 2010 to close to 1,600 in 2019. This decline mostly reflects trends in North America and Asia, as the number of dismantled methamphetamine laboratories actually increased in Europe, Oceania and Africa over the period 2010–2019.

At the same time, data show that methamphetamine manufacture is already a widespread phenomenon and is found in an increasing number of countries. In the period 2015– 2019, a total of 22,657 clandestine methamphetamine laboratories were dismantled in 35 countries, although 51 countries were identified by Member States as countries of origin of the methamphetamine found on their markets.

The overall increase in the number of reported source countries over the period 2016–2019 compared with the preceding five-year period (2010–2014) was mainly the result of an increase in the number of reported source countries in Africa (five newly reported countries), suggesting a possible spread of methamphetamine manufacture in Africa. In addition, qualitative information based on expert reports from Member States points to an increase at the global level in the manufacture of methamphetamine over the period 2010–2019.116 This suggests that, although the overall number of dismantled laboratories has been falling, the manufacture of methamphetamine may have spread in geographical terms and may have started to become a global phenomenon. A possible shift towards fewer laboratories with greater output in parallel to a general shift in manufacture to countries with more limited interdiction capacities may explain the decrease in the number of laboratories dismantled when other indicators point to an expansion of the methamphetamine market.

Domestic manufacture of methamphetamine in the United States continues to decline while imports from Mexico continue to rise The overall number of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories detected in the United States fell by 94 percent over the period 2010–2019. The majority of the laboratories detected in 2019 were “kitchen laboratories” (85 percent), which produce two ounces (roughly 56 grams) or fewer per production cycle for local demand. The number of dismantled industrial-scale “super laboratories”, namely, those manufacturing at least 10 pounds (roughly 4.5 kilograms) of methamphetamine per production cycle, declined in the United States, from 245 in 2001 to 11 in 2018 (latest year available). There has also been a major geographical shift in the manufacture of methamphetamine within the United States over the past two decades, from the south-west to the north-east of the country.

Geographical shifts in methamphetamine manufacture continue in both Southwest Asia and East and Southeast Asia Similar to the situation in North America, data from Asia show a decline in the number of methamphetamine laboratories reported dismantled in recent years, going hand in hand with marked increases in the quantities of methamphetamine seized. As in North America, it seems that such trends may point to geographical shifts in the manufacture of methamphetamine in both Southwest Asia and East and Southeast Asia. Both China and Iran, which accounted for the bulk of the dismantled methamphetamine laboratories in Asia in the period 2015–2019, reported decreasing numbers of methamphetamine laboratories dismantled in recent years, alongside an apparent expansion of methamphetamine manufacture in neighbouring countries.

Combating Methamphetamine Production in the U.S.

Efforts to combat the manufacturing of the drug in the United States have focused on making it difficult to purchase large quantities of ephedrine-based cold medicines in drug stores and supermarkets. Some people want to make over-the-counter decongestants with pseudoephedrine and ephedrine — which can be used to make methamphetamines — prescription drugs. In many states in the United States Sudafed and similar product are stored behind pharmacy counters.

To curb production of methamphetamines in small clandestine laboratories with relatively easy-to-obtain pseudoephedrine, U.S. law requires pharmacies and other retail stores to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine, and take steps to limit sales. Congress passed the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2005, which requires that pharmacies and other retail stores keep such logs and limits the amount of those products an individual can purchase per day. Restrictions on the chemicals used to make methamphetamine in the United States have dramatically reduced domestic production of the drug. In 2010, there were 15,256 domestic methamphetamine laboratory incidents — a figure that has fallen over 80 percent to 3,036 in 2017. Data on drug seizures indicate that most domestic production of methamphetamine is now conducted in small laboratories that make two ounces or less of the drug using common household items. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]

According to the UNODC: In the United States, improved precursor control (including with the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988, the Domestic Chemical Diversion and Control Act of 1993 and in particular the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005) regulating over-the-counter sales of methamphetamine precursor chemicals such as ephedrine preparations and pseudoephedrine, and ongoing efforts to dismantle laboratories seem to have acted as a deterrent to large-scale domestic methamphetamine manufacture in the United States over the last 15 years. This approach seemed to have worked well initially, as domestic groups involved in methamphetamine manufacture in the United States (largely dominated by motorcycle gangs at the time) had limited chemical skills and were not in a position to seek alternative methods of manufacture, helping to reduce the domestic market for methamphetamine in the first decade of the new millennium. Annual prevalence of methamphetamine use fell from 0.7 percent of the population aged 12 and older in 2002 to 0.3 percent in 2008. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Nonetheless, since 2010, the decrease in the domestic manufacture of methamphetamine in the United States has been more than offset by increasing imports of the drug from Mexico. A number of indicators have pointed to an expansion of the methamphetamine market within the United States, both in terms of supply of (sharply rising amounts seized and falling purity-adjusted prices) and demand for (rising prevalence of use, positive tests among the general workforce, treatment admissions and deaths) the drug.

Combating Methamphetamine Production in Mexico

Mexico has also tightened its restrictions on pseudoephedrine and other methamphetamine precursor chemicals. But manufacturers adapt to these restrictions via small- or large-scale "smurfing" operations: obtaining pseudoephedrine from multiple sources, below the legal thresholds, using multiple false identifications. Manufacturers in Mexico are also increasingly using a different production process (called P2P which stands for pseudoephedrine’s precursor chemical, phenyl-2-propanone) to make methamphetamine that does not require pseudoephedrine. [Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services]

According to the UNODC: The introduction of legislation in Mexico in 2008 to prevent over-the-counter sales and the diversion of ephedrine preparations and pseudoephedrine for the manufacture of methamphetamine, however, has not had the same impact as in the United States; instead, it has prompted Mexican organized crime groups to switch from using the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine method to the P-2-P-based method in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Initially, this went in parallel with the manufacture of a poorer quality product, but as the use of the P-2-P method in the methamphetamine found on the United States markets increased (rising from 1 percent in 2007 to 37 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009), the overall potency of methamphetamine found on the United States market declined, from 96 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2009. Without further purification at that time, the use of P-2-P allowed only for the manufacture of a less potent methamphetamine-racemate instead of the more potent d-methamphetamine that could be manufactured from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. [Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Drug Report 2021]

Manufacturers tried to compensate for this apparent shortcoming by increasing the purity of methamphetamine:. The purity of the methamphetamine found on the United States market rose from about 40 percent in 2007 to close to 70 percent in 2009. According to United States authorities, the chemical expertise of Mexican organized crime groups improved further and they eventually succeeded in manufacturing highly potent d-methamphetamine from P-2-P, a skill that is now also sought after by criminal groups in countries outside the Americas. The reported purity of methamphetamine in the United States rose from 92 percent in the first half of 2011 to 97 percent in the first quarter of 2019,a while the potency of the drug rose from 76 percent to almost 98 percent over the same period. This indicates an improvement in the know-how of the organized crime groups and an overall increase in the supply of methamphetamine in the United States. The analysis of seizure data also suggests that, by the first half of 2019, 99 percent of the methamphetamine on the United States market was manufactured using the P-2-P-based method, mainly out of non-controlled precursors of P-2-P, typically imported from China.

Methamphetamines Trafficking

According to the UNODC: Trafficking in methamphetamine continues to increase in North America The vast majority of the methamphetamine seized in the Americas is seized in North America (99 percent in 2019), where the quantity of the drug seized increased eightfold, to 153 tons, between 2009 and 2019. The United States accounted for 78 percent of the methamphetamine seized in the subregion in 2019 and Mexico for 21 percent.

The growth of methamphetamine trafficking in North America has gone hand in hand with a diversification of the form in which methamphetamine is sold: (a) powder; (b) crystals; (c) solutions (mostly for smuggling purposes); and (d) tablets that resemble MDMA tablets or falsified pharmaceuticals, mainly falsified Adderall tablets, which typically contain a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These “product innovations” seem to be aimed at expanding the consumer base to non-traditional users of methamphetamine. Moreover, the mixing of fentanyls with other drugs, including methamphetamine, is an increasingly common practice. This practice has proved to be particularly harmful and has contributed to the sharp rise in methamphetamine-related deaths in recent years. Although the use of methamphetamine used to be concentrated in the south-west of the United States, methamphetamine seizures were reported in every state in the country in 2019. In general, methamphetamine still has a strong presence in the west, south-west and southeast of the United States. This has been linked to, among other things, the proximity of those regions to the country’s south-western border with Mexico. Mexican organized crime groups control the import and wholesale distribution of methamphetamine in the United States, while domestic retail distribution is controlled by both domestic criminal groups and Mexican criminal groups.

According to United States authorities, almost all of the main criminal organizations in Mexico, including the Sinaloa Cartel, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, the Juárez Cartel and La Linea, the Gulf Cartel, the Los Zetas Cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Organization, seem to be involved in the smuggling of methamphetamine to the United States. In parallel, outlaw motorcycle gangs continue to be involved in the distribution of methamphetamine within the country. Recently, the presence of methamphetamine has been growing in regions, such as the north-east, where, historically, there was not a large market for the drug; however, that methamphetamine seems to be, at least partly, sourced from local methamphetamine manufacture. The quantities of methamphetamine seized in Mexico increased fivefold over the period 2009–2019. Concentrations of seizures take place along the Pacific coast, in territory with a strong presence of the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, as well as close to the border with California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.Meanwhile, most of the foreign nationals arrested in Mexico for methamphetamine trafficking in 2019 were nationals of the United States. The methamphetamine market in Canada has also been growing rapidly in recent years. The quantities of methamphetamine seized rose twelvefold over the period 2009–2019 and doubled between 2018 and 2019. According to United States authorities, more people were arrested in Canada for possession of methamphetamine than of opioids in 2019 and the number of methamphetamine trafficking offences increased. This has been attributed, in part, to a decrease in methamphetamine prices resulting from an increase in the availability on the Canadian market of inexpensive methamphetamine manufactured in Mexico, complementing domestically manufactured methamphetamine. Although most of the methamphetamine trafficked to North America is intended for markets within the subregion, smaller amounts of methamphetamine are also trafficked from North America to other subregions, including other parts of the Americas, Oceania, East and Southeast Asia and Western and Central Europe.

The United States, for example, was reported by countries and territories in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), Asia (Japan, Mongolia, Philippines and Hong Kong, China) and Europe (Ireland and Italy) as a country of origin, departure or transit of methamphetamine in the period 2015–2019. According to United States authorities, Asian criminal organizations are increasingly using the United States as a transit country for trafficking methamphetamine shipments to Asia and Oceania, often using Los Angeles-based import and export companies established or co-opted by Asian organized crime groups for such purposes. While most methamphetamine enters the United States by land (91 percent of the total in 2019), most of the methamphetamine shipped abroad is sent by mail (71 percent) and by sea (29 percent). Methamphetamine imports from Canada were reported in the United States, in Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and, to a lesser extent, in South America (Chile), as well as in Europe (Iceland and Latvia) in the period 2015–2019. In addition to significant trafficking in methamphetamine from Mexico to the United States there was also some from Mexico to countries and territories in Oceania (New Zealand and Australia), Europe (Belgium, Spain and United Kingdom) and Asia (Philippines and Hong Kong, China) in the period 2015–2019. Shipments of methamphetamine have also been intercepted en route from Mexico to various countries in Europe for final destinations in Asia or Oceania or to the Netherlands for distribution in Europe. Other countries are also affected, however. A record seizure was made in July 2020 of 1.5 tons of methamphetamine that had been shipped from Mexico via a port in Croatia to Slovakia.

Amphetamine Trafficking

Amphetamine trafficking remains concentrated in the Near and Middle East and Europe The Near and Middle East/Southwest Asia and Europe (mostly Western and Central Europe) together account for three quarters of the global quantity of amphetamine seized in the period 2015–2019, accounting for 49 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

At least 72 amphetamine laboratories were reported to have been dismantled in North America in the period 2015–2019. This constitutes only a small proportion of the overall number of dismantled ATS laboratories in the subregion, however, which is largely dominated by the manufacture of methamphetamine. In addition, a few amphetamine laboratories were also reported to have been dismantled in the rest of the Americas (6), notably in Central America (Guatemala) and South America (Argentina), in the period 2015–2019.

A small number of amphetamine laboratories were also reported to have been dismantled in Oceania in the period 2015–2019, although in that region the manufacture of methamphetamine also dominates the manufacture of amphetamines. No amphetamine laboratories were reported to have been dismantled in Africa during the 70 same period.

Image Source: DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration); Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: 1) “Buzzed, the Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy” by Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder Ph.D., Wilkie Wilson Ph.D., Duke University Medical Center (W.W. Norton, New York, 2003); 2) National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 3) United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and 4) National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia, The Independent, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, , Lonely Planet Guides, and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2022

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.