Illicit drug makers are finding new and creative ways to continue their ice production while trying to avoid the law. Recent government crackdowns on pseudoephedrine supply chains have severely limited access to ice ingredients. However, instead of discouraging illegal activities, the move may have even intensified drug production and availability.
A United Nations report revealed that crime groups have begun using more diverse chemical sets in their drugs. With ephedrine and pseudoephedrine supplies dwindling, some criminals are now experimenting with less conventional but equally potent alternatives. Authorities warn that this could lead to harder and more dangerous ice variants making their way to the streets.
Ice production in Southeast Asia
In its report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime identified the growing ice production problem in Southeast Asia. Evidence suggest that drug makers have started using various chemicals to produce the drug other than ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Myanmar, in particular, has experienced record levels of drug production. Authorities has now tagged the country as one of the most concentrated meth production centres in the world.
The UNODC believes that meth producers in the region were more capable of making the drug than initially thought. UNODC regional representative Jeremy Douglas pointed out that crime groups used increasingly diverse chemical sets and increasingly diverse chemical sources. If they couldn’t get their hand on a particular chemical, they’d try getting their hands on other chemicals. Douglas added that criminals would also try to get creative in how they produce their meth.
Pseudoephedrine is a popular ingredient in making ice. However, governments in Southeast Asia have already placed tight controls to curb the use of the drug compound. To circumvent these restrictions, drug makers used other chemicals to serve as substitutes. This has led to a diversification away from pseudoephedrine.
“Pseudoephedrine seizures aren’t being made at all, even though there are indications that it is still in use,” Douglas said.
“What we’re seeing is diversity in chemicals, including some very unique chemicals pushing into the region. It’s alarming because that indicates it is going to be even harder, given they’re using potentially non-controlled chemicals.”
With new ice precursors emerging, it is likely that criminals are using more sophisticated manufacturing facilities, according to the UNODC.
You can read more about the article on the UNODC report here.
Crystalline methamphetamine and precursor chemicals
Governments in East and Southeast Asia continue to crack down on meth productions. However, this hasn’t dampened the manufacturing and sale of ice in their countries. In fact, the purity of meth in these areas appear to be increasing while retail prices are decreasing. Much of the crystalline meth and precursor chemicals that reach Oceania actually come from East and Southeast Asia.
With Mexican cartels struggling to access ice precursors during COVID-19, Southeast Asian crime groups are poised to take their place. They’ve stockpiled enough precursors to support ice productions for up to six months, according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. They can then funnel the drugs to other countries. One particular target market is Australia, where users are willing to pay top dollar for a fix.
Australia’s fight against ice production
Numerous meth labs throughout Australia and the Southeast Asian region manufacture ice. To control illicit methamphetamine use, authorities have restricted the availability of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine. Legitimate drug manufacturers previously used pseudoephedrine as a component of cough medicines. However, crime groups later used the compound as a common precursor chemical in methamphetamine synthesis.
Criminals now use increasingly diverse sets of chemicals to work around ice crackdowns by Police. They’ve also explored increasingly diverse chemical sources for the precursor compounds. This includes new countries that they haven’t exploited before such as Myanmar. The record levels of drug production in that country have allowed it to surpass Thailand as a leading meth producer in the world.
Pseudoephedrine seizures used to be a reliable indicator of meth production. However, almost none was found over the past year despite ‘record-setting seizures’ of methamphetamine. It’s also concerning that the purity of the drug is increasing, while the cost is falling. As the latest national wastewater analysis shows, meth use in regional Australia is now at an all-time high.
From any perspective, testing for ice abuse in the workforce is an essential part of keeping your workplace safe.