There are signs that the market for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is expanding: seizures and consumption levels are increasing, manufacture seems to be spreading and new markets are developing.
The use of ATS, excluding "ecstasy", remains widespread globally, and appears to be increasing in most regions. In 2011, an estimated 0.7 per cent of the global population aged 15-64, or 33.8 million people, had used ATS in the preceding year. The prevalence of "ecstasy" in 2011 (19.4 million, or 0.4 per cent of the population) was lower than in 2009.
While use is steady in the traditional markets of North America and Oceania, there seems to be an increase in the market in Asia's developed economies, notably in East and South-East Asia, and there is also an emerging market in Africa, an assessment that is borne out by increasing diversions of precursors, seizures and methamphetamine manufacture. The estimated annual prevalence of ATS use in the region is higher than the global average.
At the global level, seizures have risen to a new high: 123 tons in 2011, a 66 per cent rise compared with 2010 (74 tons) and a doubling since 2005 (60 tons). Mexico clocked the largest amount of methamphetamine seized, more than doubling, from 13 tons to 31 tons, within the space of a year, thus surpassing the United States for the first time.
Methamphetamine continues to be the mainstay of the ATS business; it accounted for 71 per cent of global ATS seizures in 2011. Methamphetamine pills remain the predominant ATS in East and South-East Asia where 122.8 million pills were seized in 2011, although this was a 9 per cent decline compared with 2010 (134.4 million pills). Seizures of crystalline methamphetamine, however, increased to 8.8 tons, the highest level during the past five years, indicating that the substance is an imminent threat.
Methamphetamine manufacture seems to be spreading as well: new locations were uncovered, inter alia, in Poland and the Russian Federation. There is also an indication of increased manufacturing activity in Central America and an increase in the influence of Mexican drug trafficking organizations in the synthetic drugs market within the region.
Figures for amphetamine seizures have also gone up, particularly in the Middle East, where the drug is available largely in pill form, marketed as "captagon" pills and consisting largely of amphetamine.
Europe and the United States reported almost the same number of amphetamine laboratories (58 versus 57) in 2011, with the total number remaining fairly stable compared with 2010.
While "ecstasy" use has been declining globally, it seems to be increasing in Europe. In ascending order, Europe, North America and Oceania remain the three regions with a prevalence of "ecstasy" use that is above the global average.