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The Production of Ecstasy in the Netherlands

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The Production of Ecstasy in the Netherlands

M.F.J. Vijlbrief

Draft for “C. J. Smith, S. X. Zhang & R. Barbaret (Eds.), 2011,

Routledge Handbook of International Criminology (pp. 248-259).
Wiltshire: Routledge.”

Organized crime in the Netherlands can be characterized as cross-
border crime. Criminal groups are primarily involved in illegal
international trade, using the same opportunity structure that facilitates
legal economic activities. For this reason, it is interesting to note that
the Netherlands also acts as a major production country for the
synthetic drug ecstasy. In 2008, the U.N. reported that 42 per cent of
the ecstasy seized worldwide originated in the Netherlands (UNODC
2008). The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also
recognized that seized batches were primary produced in clandestine
laboratories in the Netherlands and Belgium (see DEA website).

Because the Netherlands is considered a source country, the Dutch

government has taken an active role in detecting production sites and
devising countermeasures. Using organized crime theory, this chapter
examines three policy options to curtail the production of ecstasy.
These are judicial interventions based on organized crime as a
hierarchical entity, judicial interventions based on organized crime as
networks, and opportunities for situational crime prevention. To
understand the choices involved, the chapter begins with a short
historical background of ecstasy, continues with a description of the

ecstasy production process and ends with an examination of the
logistics of production (including the flow of goods, information, and
money) and, most importantly, at the people involved.


Ecstasy is a synthetic drug with Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine

(MDMA) as its active psychotropic ingredient. MDMA was first
synthesized in 1889. In 1912, the German pharmaceutical company
Merck applied for a patent on the drug. Merck was considering putting
it on the market as an appetite suppressant, but there was insufficient
demand for it. At the beginning of the Cold War, the U.S. army became
interested in MDMA’s potential for use as a truth serum, a use for
which it later turned out to be unsuitable (Huisman 2005).

In the early 1970s, some members of the U.S. psychiatric community

made use of MDMA. Dr. Alexander Shulgin, famous author of
PiHKAL1, heard from the young chemistry student Merrie Kleinman that
MDMA had interesting psychoactive effects. After performing a
number of experiments on himself, he introduced psychotherapist Leo
Zeff to the drug’s effects. Zeff was so taken by the effects of MDMA
that he postponed his retirement to travel around the U.S. promoting its
therapeutic use to colleagues (POD 2008).

MDMA was first used recreationally in the early 1980s, and pills
containing MDMA were given the name ecstasy because of the
euphoria they caused. By 1984, MDMA was widely used as a
recreational drug (Shulgin & Shulgin 1991). In 1985, MDMA was
outlawed in the U.S. and placed on Schedule I of the Controlled

Substances Act.2 As a result, the drug went underground and prices

About one year after ecstasy was outlawed in the U.S., it surfaced in
Europe and became popular in the party scene. In 1988, ecstasy was
added to List I of the Dutch Opium Act. The increase in ecstasy use
went hand in hand with the growing popularity of huge raves, techno
parties, and dance parties in the U.K., Belgium, and later in the

In the years following its emergence in the Netherlands, ecstasy was

still imported from the U.S. The illegal production of ecstasy in Western
Europe first appeared in amateur labs in the Netherlands (Husken &
Vuijst 2002). In addition to MDMA, these labs manufactured a variety of
related chemical compounds, referred to as designer drugs or research
chemicals (RCs). Many RCs were not yet covered by the Opium Act,
and so it was not illegal to produce or sell them. Over the years,
experimenting with RCs decreased and MDMA held its ground as the
most used synthetic drug, apparently because it produced the most
desirable effects for users. 3


Although MDMA has been included in the Dutch Opium Act since
1988, the need to address the synthetic drug problem has only been
acknowledged since 1997 (Schoenmakers 2005). In that year, the
report Ecstasy in Nederland (1997) was sent to the Dutch House of
Representatives. This report made clear that ecstasy was the most
used hard drug in the Netherlands, in part due to its association with
the popular dance culture. But it was not only in the Netherlands that
people were eager to get their hands on ecstasy. A number of criminal

entrepreneurs exported the drug to other countries. Worldwide, a
substantial increase was seen in the counts of seized synthetic drugs
which had some connection with the Netherlands (Schoenmakers
2005). Various countries, including the U.S., confronted the
Netherlands with this issue. In 2001, partly as a response to
international pressure, the Dutch Justice Department released a
memorandum, in which synthetic drugs were made a distinct priority
among Dutch investigative authorities, a situation that continues to this
day (Vijlbrief 2009). But how did the Netherlands manage to become a
major producer of ecstasy, when the drug had its origins in the U.S.?
Most likely, a number of unique circumstances regarding supply and
demand for this drug lay at the root of this development (Blickman

The demand for ecstasy increased quickly. Korf (2003) attempted to

explain the success of ecstasy by looking at the characteristics of its
users, the social and cultural environment in which the drug is used,
and the drug itself. He found that ecstasy was primarily used in the
party scene starting in the mid-80s. Teenagers and young adults
attended techno parties that quickly gained in popularity. Through their
ecstasy use, people experienced these parties as intimate, blissful, and
pleasurable gatherings of a large group of friends. In addition, ecstasy
was relatively cheap, easy to take, and had a party reputation. Ecstasy
spread quickly to other countries, due to increased mobility and
cheaper means of travel to clubs in tourist destinations (Huisman
2005). The market for ecstasy was flexible and ever-changing, with
new pill logos and colors appearing in quick succession.

An important factor in the supply side of ecstasy is the fact that the
infrastructure required for the production and trade in MDMA was

already largely in place in the Netherlands. After all, the Dutch played a
leading role in illicit alcohol distillation and the production of
amphetamine since the 70s. Both production processes are suitable for
the production of ecstasy. In this respect, one can speak of "routine
socio-economic activities" (Blickman 2004). Criminal organizations then
only have to switch over to another product line, so to speak, in order
to manufacture the new drug. Examples of this type of shift in
production have indeed been encountered. A number of individuals
suspected of manufacturing MDMA were already known to the police,
for instance, from their past involvement in the illegal distillation of
alcohol. The laboratory experience required for ecstasy production, as
well as the contacts needed to obtain the necessary equipment and
chemicals, was already in place. In the 1970s, Dutch amphetamine
manufacturers already had good contacts and large supply markets in
Germany and Scandinavia (Huisman 2005). Moreover, their existing
partnerships allowed them to swiftly move in to serve the British market
for ecstasy. Through the years, a certain division of labor emerged
within the Netherlands: ecstasy was primarily manufactured in the
South, while traffickers with international contacts were concentrated in
and around Amsterdam.

The number of current ecstasy users4 in the Netherlands was

estimated at 40,000 in 2005. Although ecstasy use declined between
1996 and 2003, especially among school-aged youth (from 2.3 per cent
to 1.2 per cent), ecstasy remains the second most used drug in the
Netherlands, after cannabis. In Western Europe, Central Europe, and
North America, current ecstasy use is just under one per cent, while in
Australia and neighboring countries, it stands at three per cent. Current
use in East Asia and Southeast Asia is still low at 0.1 per cent, but the
user population is growing fast (Huisman & Smits 2008).

Ecstasy produced in the Netherlands is largely for export. Only a small
portion is for domestic consumption.5 This can be easily explained by
the considerably larger profit margins to be had in other countries,
especially those outside Europe. Since Dutch ecstasy producers have
a high level of expertise which results in high-quality products, their
pills are in demand. The average production cost of a single ecstasy
tablet amounts to €0.15 - €0.20, while individual tablets fetches an
average price of €3.49 each on the street in the Netherlands. The
street value is far higher in many major North American cities (€20-30),
Australia and New Zealand (about €30), and Japan (€25-50). These
price differences illustrate the motive for cross-border crime: export
and transit can produce significant profits.


To give a better understanding of the logistical steps a criminal
organization must take in manufacturing ecstasy and trafficking in it,
the production process is further discussed below. The process
requires experienced lab technicians. In practice, some lab technicians
have limited knowledge and experience, but work with a recipe from a
“cookbook”. They are most likely directed by people who do have a
good understanding of the synthesis process. There are eight main
steps in the production of ecstasy. The description below is given in
non-specialist language, without details of the specific chemical
processes involved.

1 Synthesis
The actual synthesis takes place in this phase and requires the
precursor Piperonyl Methyl Keton (PMK). PMK is primarily produced in

China. The main legal application of PMK is as an ingredient in
perfumes and cleaning agents. However, the quantity required for
these uses is limited in comparison with that used in the production of
MDMA. Obtaining PMK is one of the greatest challenges in MDMA
production. Unlike other ingredients in MDMA, there are no good
alternatives for PMK. So to a large degree, PMK suppliers determine
the production of MDMA.

In addition to PMK, other chemicals are needed to make MDMA. For

instance, monomethylamine, methanol, platinum oxide, acetone and
hydrochloric acid. Although most of these ingredients have legal
applications, using them for the production of synthetic drugs is a
criminal offense6.

Required hardware includes a pressure tank with pressure gauge, a

temperature gauge, tap, propulsion engine, mixing mechanism, and
vacuum pump, and sometimes an industrial freezer. In one method of
production, all ingredients are put into the pressure tank, and synthesis
takes place in about four hours. The yield depends largely on the
amount of PMK available, which, after synthesis, is roughly one-third of
the volume of the pressure tank. One of the largest tanks encountered
in a laboratory had a volume of 500 liters. In theory, this allows for
batches of 170 liter of MDMA oil at a time. Synthesis is a complex and
dangerous process, but it is also crucial for the quality of the final

2 Distillation
In this phase of the process, various fluids are separated from one
another using their difference in boiling points. Hardware needed for
this phase include heating mantles, gas burners, 20-liter round-

bottomed flasks with cooling units, a vacuum pump, temperature
gauge, or a distillation unit with collection tank. This phase takes
several hours. Synthesis and distillation can both be carried out within
a period of 10 hours.

3. Crystallization
During this phase, MDMA oil is transformed into a solid form which can
be readily absorbed by the human body. Acetone and hydrochloric acid
are used as solvent and acid. The actual crystallization can take place
in a plain plastic tub, a crystallization tank, or a deep freezer, and is a
time-consuming process. It takes at least 24 hours, and the mixture
must be stirred continually. The resulting crystals are occasionally sold
as a final product, though generally not in the Netherlands. In other
countries, MDMA sometimes appears in the form of these coarse
crystals. By and large, MDMA is first made into tablet form, for which a
number of further steps are needed.

In the filtration phase, superfluous fluid is removed from the wet
MDMA. Common household materials are often used in this process.
The wet MDMA may be placed in a pillowcase and then spun in a spin-
drier or filtered using a homemade filtration device. A vacuum pump
and Büchner funnel are also needed. Following filtration, the MDMA
must be dried.

5. Drying
Unlike amphetamine, MDMA is generally consumed in pill form. To
make tablets, MDMA powder must be completely dry. The presence of
even the smallest amount of moisture will cause the pills to fall apart.
All kinds of equipment is used to dry MDMA power, from industrial

drying cabinets to ovens to hair dryers. The powder can also be spread
out on a tarpaulin and dried using fans.

6. Pulverizing
The dried MDMA powder is still relatively coarse. To make pills, the
powder must first be made very fine. To do so, an industrial pulverizer
can be used, as well as mixers, meat grinders, and other common
kitchen equipment. Professional equipment is often used due to the
frequently large quantities of MDMA powder to be processed.

7. Mixing and coloring

In this phase, the fine MDMA powder is mixed and dyed, to the
specifications of the buyer. MDMA powder is mixed with a variety of
other substances that serve as fillers and make it easier to produce a
smooth tablet, such as microcellulose, lactose, talcum powder,
magnesium powder, starch and caffeine. Any sort of dye may be used.
The mixing phase is often carried out using a drum mixer, food
processor, or cement mixer, and weighing equipment. At the
completion of this phase, the MDMA powder is ready for tabletting.

8. Tabletting
Ecstasy is nearly exclusively sold and used in the form of pills with
logos. In most cases, tabletting takes place in a different location than
the MDMA synthesis. This may have to do with attempts to spread the
risk, as well as the fact that different people with distinct expertise are
involved in this phase. To produce the pills, a tabletting machine is
needed and the associated logo-stamps. There are all kinds of
tabletting machines around, from relatively small pieces of equipment,
with a capacity of fewer than 5000 pills an hour, to large industrial
machines with a capacity of more than 15,000. Criminal organizations

obtain tabletting machines second-hand, on the internet, or by buying
up the assets of bankrupt companies. Pill-stamps are used to print
logos on the pills. In practice, there are countless different sizes and
types of pills, but they almost always have a certain logo, for example,
a well-known brand of automobile or exclusive clothing line, or a
popular cartoon character. These stamps must be made of a special
reinforced steel because they are often used thousands of times. If one
were to use regular steel, the stamp would wear down too quickly and
the imprint would no longer be clear. Making these stamps is the work
of specialized professionals, who supply these high-quality stamps to
various tabletters. After the pills are made, they are weighed and
packed, and the production process is complete.

The above description makes clear that a number of links are essential
in the production of MDMA and ultimately ecstasy tablets: laboratory
technicians, suppliers of PMK and other ingredients necessary for the
synthesis, and producers of pill-stamps and necessary hardware. The
next section goes into these issues further.

The criminal business process

The synthetic drug production process carries with it an inherent

division of duties which greatly influences the structure of the criminal
organization (Kleemans et al. 2002). Spapens (2006) uses a model
devised in the field of business administration to describe the criminal
business process, whereby logistical processes are divided into the
flow of goods, information, and money.

Flow of goods

The flow of goods is defined as the chain in which illegal goods or
services are produced or provided, including both real estate and
moveable goods, both legal and illegal. The flow of goods in relation to
the criminal business process for synthetic drugs is as follows:

1. Obtaining a production location and production resources:

a. Obtaining the production space
b. Obtaining standard equipment and legal raw materials
c. Obtaining specialized equipment and illegal materials

2. Setting up the laboratory:

a. Ensuring transport of equipment and materials
b. Installing the equipment

3. Carrying out the production process:

a. Performing the various steps of production
b. Disposing of waste

4. Trafficking in the final product, in consumer or wholesale


5. Transport and distribution of the final product, in consumer or

wholesale quantities

Flow of information
The second component of the criminal business process is the flow of
information exchanged among members of the criminal organization as
a function of the business process, and includes content-related,
organizational, and social information.

1. Flow of content-related information:
This comprises all information that has to do with the flow of
goods or money. The flow of information must be concealed
because it can lead directly to criminal acts or products. For this
reason, such information is exchanged as much as possible
during face-to-face meetings.

2. Flow of organizational information:

This information has to do with meetings to be arranged, or
conversations to direct one another to certain locations, etc. This
information is largely communicated by phone or cell phone.

3. Flow of social information:

This exchange of information is not directly functional for
carrying out the illegal activities at hand but involves the social
context in which the producers operate.

Flow of money
This comprises all financial transactions, be they cash or check, money
transfers or payment in kind.

Various roles can be differentiated on the basis of the above
breakdown of the production process and business transactions. An
organizer, for example, can be identified for each production process.
The organizer oversees the logistics from a higher managerial position.
In addition, they often finance the operation, or make use of investors
who are willing to fund part of the operation in exchange for a share of
the profits. These organizers shield themselves as much as possible

from the actual operation by creating intermediary layers of personnel,
or assistants. For a set fee, assistants perform work like processing or
moving goods. The description of the business process showed that
specialized expertise was also necessary. This is rendered by service
providers. Service providers are paid per job, and do not share in the
profits of the criminal business process. But service providers have
specific knowledge or skills at their disposal, which makes them
scarcer than assistants. Service providers often only come to the fore
briefly in investigations, because their contributions frequently just
involve single transactions. Moreover, they often work for more than
one organizer, sometimes at the same time. Five important categories
of service providers follow:

The first important group of service providers specializes in supplying

illegal materials. The precursor most used in the production of MDMA
is PMK, which turns out to be primarily manufactured and sold in China
(Huisman & Smits 2008; Soudijn & Kleemans 2009).

The second important group of service providers is hardware

manufacturers and suppliers. The hardware required for the production
of synthetic drugs includes pressure tanks, heating mantles, 20-liter
round-bottomed flasks, and reactors. Most of these items are not
themselves illegal, but they are difficult to obtain through regular
channels or have few legal applications. Moreover, most of the
hardware must first be adapted or customized in some way by
individuals with the expertise, skills, and tools to do so.

A third important group of service providers are the laboratory

technicians. They are responsible for actually carrying out the

synthesis and/or tabletting. Only a few lab technicians are trained
chemists. The vast majority learn on the job (Spapens 2006).

Transport personnel can be considered a fourth category of service

providers. They are responsible for transporting various legal and
illegal goods from one location to another. Transporters often work for
more than one criminal organization.

The fifth category of service providers in the world of synthetic drugs

deal with financial matters and include lawyers and accountants.

Finally, there is the type of service provider whose “profession” is to

facilitate identity-shielding for the members of a criminal organization.
These providers often lease cars from mala fide companies, and
arrange discrete means of communication and rental properties.

Theoretical implications and debate

There is a lively academic debate on the type of cooperation among
people involved in the production of synthetic drugs. The two most
prominent theories deal with people cooperating as hierarchical
organizations or as fluid networks. Another approach is a situational
crime perspective. These three types are explained below.

At one end of the spectrum, one finds the view of organized crime as a
bureaucratic hierarchy. This (traditional) view of organized crime is
often traced back to the findings from several American congressional
committees on organized crime, such as Cressey's report for the 1967
Task Force on Organized Crime for the President's Crime Commission
(Cressey 1967). In this model, large-scale, ethnically homogeneous,

hierarchical entities participate in various highly lucrative criminal
activities in a systematic (i.e., bureaucratic) way. Based on this view,
the judicial authorities should focus on the prosecution of the
organizers, without whom the criminal enterprise would collapse. This
leads to long-term investigations that take at least several months or

In the 1970s, this view of organized crime as hierarchical organizations

shifted to criminal networks (Albini 1971; Ianni 1974). These days,
crimes that are well organized are often regarded as having network
characteristics. This entails people working less in accordance with
hierarchy or continuity, but rather taking advantage of criminal
opportunities (Reuter 1983; Kleemans et al. 1998; Van de Bunt &
Kleemans 2007). Social capital and social network theories are used
as the primary tools for analyzing criminal partnerships. For example,
people who are able to bridge social and geographic gaps are very
important in a network. Following on from Burt, such nodes in criminal
networks can be referred to as “structural holes” (Burt 1992). With this
network template, the judicial authorities can target specific people to
disturb the production and logistical process. For instance, it may be
effective just to tackle the financial service providers of criminal
networks. Few people in a criminal network have the necessary skills
to carry out money laundering schemes. This makes them of great
value to criminal entrepreneurs. As such, financial advisers often
provide their services for different criminals and illegal enterprises. By
the same logic, lab technicians are also crucial in the production chain.
The necessary skills are hard to find, and here too it has been
observed that the technicians render their services to various criminal
entrepreneurs. Suppliers of PMK are another important link in the
chain. They are vital in providing access to the key ingredient in the

production process. On the other hand, targeting international
transporters is a less fruitful approach for an investigation. They are
easily replaceable and have less specialized skills than financial
advisers or lab technicians.

In many ways, the network model seems the best fit when it comes to
studying the synthetic drugs sector. Organizers make use of many
different couriers, transport personnel, lab technicians, and errand boys
and are not particularly committed to sustaining a working relationship
with any of them. However, the current view of organized crime as
being comprised of fluid criminal networks -- with few sustained or
hierarchical relationships and characterized instead by dynamism,
flexibility, and member turnover -- does need to be qualified. This is
especially true of organized crime operating in the synthetic drugs
sector (Vijlbrief 2009). First, there is often a group of core members
within networks who take the initiative, while co-perpetrators and
contractors are then approached on a more ad hoc basis (Klerks & Kop
2004; Soudijn 2006). For this reason, it is still useful to identify and try
to tackle the organizers.

Secondly, there are no hard-and-fast rules that organized crime will

always follow a given pattern. Apart from flexible networks, there are
also strongly cohesive or hybrid networks (Rogovin & Martens 1997;
Williams 2001). Examples include ethnically homogeneous groups with
affective (family) relationships (Bruinsma & Bernasco 2004). It is
precisely because they are not purely instrumental that these latter
networks are durable.

Lastly, networks are often difficult to define. What counts as a network

and what does not? For example, the essential precursor PMK is often

imported from China. Several police investigations have revealed a
pattern of Chinese criminals bringing PMK into the Netherlands and
selling it to Dutch producers of Ecstasy (Huisman & Smits 2008;
Soudijn & Kleemans 2009). Due to language barriers and the scarcity
of the product, the import side has become the exclusive domain of
Chinese criminals. One could argue that they make up part of the
network of the Dutch synthetic drug producers. But one could also
argue that the Chinese and Dutch criminals constitute two separate
networks that work together. The illegal importation of PMK itself
constitutes a separate criminal process.

In contrast to the views based on hierarchical or network models, the

theory of situational crime prevention bypasses discussions about the
nature of organized crime. Studies using this approach focus on how
situational crime analysis may help identify both the circumstances that
facilitate crime, and viable measures for reducing the opportunities to
commit crime (for examples, Felson & Clarke 1998; Cornish & Clarke
2002;). If the aim is to implement effective crime prevention measures,
the question of whether or not criminal groups are, strictly speaking,
"organized" is not always relevant.

From a situational perspective, the production of ecstasy leads to some

opportunities for intervention. A classic example is subjecting certain
precursors to strict international monitoring. In the Dutch case, it is
clear that without PMK, the production of MDMA will be severely
hampered. New legislation in China means that as of 2008, the
production of PMK is being more closely monitored. As a result,
ecstasy producers in the Netherlands are rumored to be having more

difficulty obtaining this precursor. For the moment, drug experts have
observed that less ecstasy is being confiscated worldwide.1

However, several other, more small-scale (local) opportunities for

intervention also present themselves. The production of synthetic drugs
requires not only specific chemicals, but also specialized equipment,
such as flasks and glass mantles. Of course, it is not illegal to buy or
sell glasswork. Yet most glassblowers are unaware that their
equipment may be being used for the production of Ecstasy. For this
reason, the police launched an initiative to raise awareness among
glassblowers. This turned out to be extremely effective. In the wake of
the campaign, it was observed that ecstasy producers had great
difficulty in obtaining special flasks. What we should learn here is that
this sort of campaign was not focused on a particular criminal
organization or transnational network.

However, the use of situational crime prevention comes with one

important caveat. A local approach is only possible on the basis of
knowledge attained from the thorough analysis of the criminal
operations of large-scale producers and traffickers. It is precisely those
“old-fashioned” police investigations focusing on the organizers that
produce insight into the crucial bottlenecks encountered by ecstasy
producers. Without these investigations, many options for situational
measures may never enter the policy arena.

Pills often include a mixture of MDMA and other substances or MDMA substitutes.
However, limited forensic capacity often leads to confusion about the actual content of tablets
believed to be "ecstasy" (MDMA) (WDR 2009, p. 115).

Five research questions for students- these questions should
challenge the students to go do research. Think about research
questions that need to be done. What is the next step in
researching x? See my examples below:

1. How doe the business process of ecstasy compare to the process

of another criminal activity?

2. Find a situational crime prevention measure that has not been

referred to in this text.

3. Is the risk of displacement a fundamental flaw in situational crime


4. Sometimes it is advocated to have a ‘xtc test teams’ on the

premises of major parties. Such a team would test designer drugs
on proper ingredients. Buyers could test their pills and discard
dangerous ones. Are such measures to be recommended?

5. What conditions must be satisfied in order to compare seizures of

Ecstasy pills worldwide? Consider differences in definitions, levels
of purity, timespans, etc.


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Relevant websites
DEA website on MDMA

European Market Ecstasy Trafficking

European Market Ecstasy Trafficking

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Australian Crime Commission

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)


Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR)

National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS)

National Drug Intelligence Center


MDMA laboratory

Industrial tabletting machines

Specialized equipment, such as flasks and glass mantles

PiHKAL stands for “Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved.” Shulgin devoted nearly 30
years of his life to synthesizing, using, and evaluating almost 200 types of chemical substances. He
also tested new substances on his wife and close friends. They describe their findings and
experiences in PiHKAL (Shulgin & Shulgin, 1991).
Schedule I drugs are deemed too dangerous to have any accepted medical or therapeutic
purposes. MDMA is listed along with LSD and MDA.
For more information on the harmful effects of all kinds of drugs, see also (Risk Assessments)
“Current use” means use by a person in the past month (Huisman & Smits, 2008).
An extensive study in 2003 concluded that an estimated 78 to 131 million pills of ecstasy are
manufactured per year in the Netherlands. Of these, 7 to 13 million are for the domestic market, 43 to
73 for the EU market, and 28-48 for the rest of the world. This means that the Netherlands is
responsible for supplying a total of 32-42% of the total global demand for ecstasy pills (Blickman,
Article 10a of the Dutch Opium Act was formulated for this purpose: it criminalizes certain
actions as preparatory acts. This makes it a criminal offence, even in the case of raw materials that
are not in themselves illegal, to acquire, possess, or sell them with the intent of using them for illegal


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