EU Drug Market: Amphetamine — Trafficking and supply

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Trafficking within the EU


Amphetamine trafficking within the EU is complex and dynamic, with many criminal groups and individuals involved. While synthetic drug production processes are well researched and understood, due to extensive forensic investigation of dismantled illicit laboratories, less is known about trafficking. Police investigations provide the most useful details and reveal that trafficking within the EU is primarily carried out using land transportation methods, as well as through postal and parcel services. The latter two may be linked to the online supply of relatively small quantities of amphetamine.

Amphetamine is most often trafficked in the EU as a dry powder or paste. In the paste form, volatile solvents are added to make the drug appear freshly made and to temporarily increase the weight of the product (until the solvents evaporate), which improves profitability. It is also trafficked in liquid form (amphetamine base oil), which requires further processing before distribution and use. 

Amphetamine has been found in shipments along with other synthetic drugs, as well as cocaine, cannabis or heroin. The polydrug dimension of criminal activities is not only observed in the case of larger drugs consignments but also at the distribution and retail level, where street dealers often trade in a variety of drugs. This is also the case for the distribution of drugs via postal and parcel services.

Seizures of amphetamine in the EU

The free movement of goods within the Schengen Area, coupled with production being centred around the Netherlands and Belgium, means that opportunities for the interception of amphetamine inside the EU are limited. When they do occur, large seizures made at borders tend to be the result of coordinated law enforcement operations. Actions against street dealers and consumers may result in a large number of smaller seizures. This variability complicates the interpretation of the data gathered on seizures, although, clearly, both the number of seizures and the amounts seized give an indication of the importance of the market for amphetamine in the EU.

Seizures of amphetamine in the EU were relatively stable for a number of years until 2017, with around 25 000 cases per year. Since then the number of seizures has been gradually rising, to almost 32 000 in 2020 before falling back to 27 000 in 2021 (see Figure Number of amphetamine seizures in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021).

Number of amphetamine seizures in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021

Source: EMCDDA. The source data for this graphic is available in the source table on this page.

The quantity of amphetamine seized in the EU also remained relatively stable – estimated at between 4 and 6 tonnes per year – until 2019 and 2020, when large amounts of captagon tablets were seized in the EU in transit to the Arabian Peninsula (see Figure Quantity of amphetamine seized in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021). It is notable that Türkiye seized more amphetamine than the entire EU in 2017 and 2018 due to large seizures of captagon tablets (6.6 tonnes and 5.7 tonnes, respectively). Indeed, 2019 and 2020 were exceptional years for seizures of captagon tablets within the EU, with Greece seizing 9.6 tonnes in 2019 and Italy seizing 14.2 tonnes in 2020. It is possible that there is a connection between the fall in captagon seizures in Türkiye and their rise in the EU, such as a change in trafficking routes.

It is important to note that data for the Netherlands are not routinely reported, which limits the scope of the analysis (because of this, seizures from the Netherlands are not included in the figure Quantity of amphetamine seized in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021). Data published in 2022 by the Dutch police, however, give the quantity of amphetamine seized in recent years as 2 326 kilograms in 2017, 953 kilograms in 2018, 3 130 kilograms in 2019 and 1 817 kilograms in 2020 (National Police of the Netherlands, 2022). 

Quantity of amphetamine seized in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021

Source: EMCDDA. The source data for this graphic is available in the source table on this page.

Trafficking routes and methods

Within the EU, the routes through which amphetamine is trafficked between the production hubs and final user markets vary significantly, and sometimes include places where amphetamine base oil is crystallised into amphetamine sulfate. The scale of trafficking also varies, from small amounts to multi-kilogram quantities.

Consignments most often depart from the main production hub in the Netherlands or in neighbouring Belgium or Germany. Wholesale distribution is therefore mostly carried out via overland routes, using lorries or cars. Amphetamine shipments destined for Nordic countries often transit the Baltic region or are trafficked by or with the involvement of criminal networks from this region, and commercial vehicle ferry services may be used. Smaller drug consignments are also transported by couriers using the same methods. As in the case of other drugs, couriers moving amphetamine across borders are often complicit with, or members of, criminal networks; however, consignments may also be transported by exploiting individuals or companies that are unaware of the nature of the goods carried. Criminals may use tracking solutions to locate and retrieve the loads.

Concealment methods are influenced, among other factors, by the scale of the trafficking operations (whether small- or large-scale) and the form of the drug trafficked (liquid or solid). When organising drug shipments, criminals may take additional measures to minimise the risk of detection. Such measures may involve testing routes, using custom-made concealments, or adding several transit points between the origin and the destination.

Precursor trafficking

Criminal networks specialising in supplying synthetic drugs producers with reagents, precursors, alternative chemicals and equipment often set up companies in EU countries. According to the Dutch police, Poland is an important source of such chemicals (National Police of the Netherlands, 2022). These EU-based suppliers purchase large amounts of chemicals, store them and then re-sell them to producers. BMK and alternative chemicals are typically sourced directly from China, while other required chemicals often come from legitimate companies in the EU.

Large quantities of alternative chemicals are imported from outside the EU are sent by air cargo, as well as by sea in shipping containers or in freight on trucks or trains, often concealed among legal commodities.

Criminal groups take advantage of vulnerabilities in airport and seaport control systems to smuggle chemicals used in the production of amphetamine. In addition to concealment in loads among legal goods and the use of hidden compartments, criminal networks also hide the nature of shipments by making false declarations and mislabelling loads.

If shipments pass customs checks upon entry to the EU, mislabelled chemicals are typically transported to the centres of production by road. Police authorities seize significant quantities of mislabelled chemicals during the dismantling of illicit laboratories and storage sites. The mislabelling technique is also applied to common, widely used chemicals, solvents and reagents used in the production of illicit drugs.

Europe’s role in the global captagon trade

Currently there is little to suggest the existence of a significant user markets for captagon tablets in the EU. Despite this, large quantities of captagon tablets were seized in the EU in 2019 and 2020 (see Table Seizures of captagon tablets in the EU (> 60 000 tablets or > 10 kg), November 2018-February 2022). In these cases, EU countries were mainly used as transhipment points between captagon-producing countries outside the EU, such as Lebanon and Syria, and destination markets in and around the Arabian Peninsula. This process may involve a direct re-routing of the consignment, or sending the load after it has been unloaded and re-packed in the EU (EMCDDA and BKA, 2023).

Seizures of captagon tablets in the EU (> 60 000 tablets or > 10 kg), November 2018-February 2022

Date Country Location Weight (kg) Number of tablets

Other drugs seized



Hamburg port


1 000 000






3 100 000

6 tonnes cannabis resin



Pireus port


4 800 000




Near Crete


258 000

6.5 tonnes cannabis resin



Igoumenitsa port


370 000





5 511*

33 000 000




Constanta port


2 232 000*




Salerno port


1 122 000*

2.8 tonnes cannabis resin



Salerno port

14 028*

84 000 000




Constanta port


4 500 000*

1.4 tonnes cannabis resin





1 404 000*






1 020 000*






360 000*






180 000






80 000






88 880






22 962

137 514 880

16.7 tonnes cannabis resin

Note: Values marked with an asterisk (*) have been converted based on a tablet weight of 0.167 grams or 6 tablets per gram.
Source: EMCDDA and BKA (2023)

Investigations by law enforcement authorities in the EU have identified that Syrian or Lebanese individuals (by nationality or birth), have been involved in many of these large captagon seizures. Some of the organisers are resident in the EU while others make frequent visits to the region. Apart from arranging shipments of captagon tablets, these criminal groups have also been involved in trafficking cannabis resin and, less frequently, herbal cannabis and cocaine (EMCDDA and BKA, 2023).

There is also evidence of some captagon tablet production in the EU, mainly in the Netherlands, where large quantities of captagon tablets can be produced on demand. Typically, a captagon tablet contains about 33 milligrams of amphetamine, meaning that approximately 33 kilograms of (pure) amphetamine are needed to manufacture 1 million captagon tablets (EMCDDA and BKA, 2023). In January 2019, 1 266 600 captagon tablets were seized in the port of Ad Dammam in Saudi Arabia inside a shipping container coming from Rotterdam in the Netherlands. In a similar case, in February 2019, a further 348 000 captagon tablets were seized at the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, again from a shipping container coming from Rotterdam (RILO-WE, 2020). Apart from the ‘on demand’ production situation in the Netherlands, the criminal networks typically involved in drug production, trafficking and supply in the EU do not appear to be frequently involved in the captagon trade (EMCDDA and BKA, 2023).

Trafficking to global markets

Online distribution

Based on 2021 data from seven darknet markets (Alphabay, ASAP, Cypher, Dark0dereborn, Royal, Versus and World) (1), a total of 6 750 listings (sale offers) were found for amphetamine products reported as being shipped from an EU country. To put this in context, while not directly comparable, in a similar scanning exercise conducted in 2020, 10 832 listings were found for cocaine and 1 362 for methamphetamine. The amphetamine listings on these darknet markets encompassed a varied set of products, including tablets and powder, which represented the vast majority of listings (6 700). In addition, a small number of listings for alternative chemicals (6) and A-oil (amphetamine oil) (44) were also found, but the limited amount of data available on these products prevents any meaningful analysis.

The majority of amphetamine listings found on these darknet markets indicated Germany as the country of shipment (57 %), followed by the Netherlands (35 %), France (3 %) and more than one European country (3 %). The remainder of the listings (2 %) claimed to be shipping from other EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Poland and Spain (see Figure Reported European shipping countries for amphetamine listings on major darknet markets, 2021).

Reported European shipping countries for amphetamine listings on major darknet markets, 2021

* 'Other countries' includes six EU countries each accounting for less than 1 %. Source: EMCDDA analysis based on Web-IQ data. The source data for this graphic is available in the source table on this page.

The typical quantity (the most frequently observed value) of amphetamine found on listing offers was 10 grams (730 listings). The typical price in 2021 was 10 EUR/gram (in 245 listings of 1 gram; range EUR 1 to EUR 56). In listings for which price data were available, at 5 grams (369) and 10 grams (484) sellers offer a 4-6 EUR/gram discount, as listings typically offered these amounts for 6 EUR/gram and 4 EUR/gram, respectively. Discounts are especially evident in bulk listings, as seen in the drop in the average price per kilogram as the sales unit weight increases (see Table Prices of amphetamine found on selected darknet markets in 2021). Listings for 1 kilogram (320) offered amphetamine at approximately 1 000 EUR/kilogram and listings for 10 kilograms (12) offered this amount at a price of approximately 500 EUR/kilogram.

Prices of amphetamine found on selected darknet markets in 2021

Sales unit 

Average price (EUR)


Price range (EUR)

Average price (EUR/kg)

1 g



1 to 56

9 600

5 g



4 to 75

5 870

10 g



2 to 96

3 690

500 g



74 to 1 684

1 130

1 kg

1 006.28


476 to 2 944

1 010

5 kg

4 016.87


2 964 to 8 968


10 kg

5 369


1 700 to 9 000


Source: EMCDDA

(1) Alphabay (172), ASAP (157), Cypher (636), Dark0dereborn (801), Royal (141), Versus (3 185) and World (1 658). Updated data were not available due to instability in the darknet market ecosystem in 2022.

Source data

Number of amphetamine seizures in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021
Number of seizures 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
EU, Norway and Türkiye 20239 24182 22034 25697 26477 25057 25745 31726 30867 31926 27251
EU27 17490 21487 18775 20037 20967 20266 20195 22980 24008 24508 21481
Quantity of amphetamine seized in the EU, Norway and Türkiye, 2011-2021
Quantity seized 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
Türkiye 562 207 1137 177 3796 3380 6610 5709 2789 737 3519
Norway 72 183 318 315 500 402 427 390 454 442 572
Poland 395 614 676 783 696 943 582 1323 1677 1921 2084
Denmark 255 302 340 292 190 345 314 378 214 540 160
Spain 326 313 497 672 323 455 230 333 460 645 288
Sweden 169 315 631 414 529 431 745 1049 998 1118 1555
Bulgaria 233 78 159 183 43 89 400 75 73 271 263
Other EU countries 3402 2456 2265 2218 3956 3660 2759 1448 13278 17856 2417
Reported European shipping countries for amphetamine listings on major darknet markets, 2021
Country %
Germany 57
Netherlands 35
France 3
Europe 3
Other countries* 2


Consult the list of references used in this resource.