The Ecstasy Industry

Exploring the Global Market
09 December 2004

In this briefing, we will take a close look at the figures of the global ecstasy market, as well as the position of The Netherlands in synthetic drug production and trafficking.

Ecstasy has become a popular drug over the past 15 years. Its rise was closely connected to a new youth culture, which began at the end of the 1980s. National and international drug control agencies responded to ecstasy's growing popularity in their traditional manner: they prohibited the substance. As a result, a new illicit industry emerged and ecstasy was added to the stock of illicit drugs supplied by criminal networks. Ecstasy and other amphetamine type stimulants will become Public Enemy No.1 in the period ahead, declared the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr. Antonio Maria Costa. Little is known about the illicit ecstasy industry.

Over the past decade, The Netherlands has been pinpointed as the main producer country, but statistics have relied on fragmentary information based on seizures, police operations against specific trafficking and production organisations, and soft intelligence information. In 2003, the UNODC tried to put together a global overview of that market. In this briefing, we will take a close look at the figures of the global ecstasy market, as well as the position of The Netherlands in synthetic drug production and trafficking. An attempt will be made to try to explain why Dutch groups have gained and maintained prominence on the global ecstasy market since its genesis in the late 1980s.

Without insight into the functioning of criminal networks involved in the illicit ecstasy industry, it is not possible to understand the functioning of the market. While at a certain moment,The Netherlands provided a set of beneficial conditions for the development of an illicit ecstasy industry, a different set of conditions could favour the development of productions facilities and trafficking lines elsewhere.

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