Precursor chemicals

Amphetamine-type Stimulants (ATS), also known as Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulants, are synthetic drugs that are manufactured in laboratories. Various substances (i.e. precursors and essential chemicals) which are commercially available (e.g. ephedrine, acetone) are mixed together and are parts of the reactions which yield ATS. This manufacturing process requires various types of mixing and heating equipment to synthesize ATS. Other equipment is required to make ATS tablets.

There are three types of substances used in the production of ATS:
Precursors are considered the starting material for ATS. By making some modifications (through chemical reactions) to the molecular structure of the precursor, ATS is produced. For example, ephedrine is the precursor that is converted to methamphetamine.
Reagents are the substances used to cause the chemical reaction that modifies the precursor’s molecular structure to produce ATS (i.e. precursors are mixed with reagents to produce ATS). For example, when the reagent acetic anhydride is mixed with the precursor ephedrine, the resulting compound is methamphetamine. Solvents do not react chemically with the precursors and reagents.
Solvents are added to the chemical mixture to ensure effective mixing by dissolving precursors and reagents, diluting the reaction mixtures, and separating and purifying other chemicals. Various solvents and reagents used in the illicit manufacture of ATS are comercially available for applications in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.
The burgeoning illicit manufacture of ATS is supported by the number and simplicity of synthetic routes to manufacture them, and by easy access to an enormous variety of starting materials. The manufacture of methamphetamine does not require specialized equipment, or advanced technical training. Production can be done in makeshift labs hidden in mobile homes, warehouses, or even motel rooms.


Rural areas are popular sites for production because strong and toxic odors are produced during manufacture. The manufacturing process can also be dangerous because ATS production requires the use of toxic, explosive, flammable and corrosive substances. This means that cleaning up illicit laboratories is critical. It is important for law enforcement officials to understand the production process, not only to identify clandestine laboratories, but also to protect themselves and treat those injured from the chemicals used to make ATS.

It necessary to exercise caution when handling chemicals at the site of clandestine laboratories because diverted precursors might have their original label tampered with of removed, or they may have been removed from their original containers in order to conceal their identity. Understanding the production process can also help law enforcement authorities collect valuable intelligence from discovered clandestine laboratories to prosecute and dismantle criminal networks. Additionally, it is important for health, regulatory and judicial officials to understand the manufacturing to treat victims of drug overdoses, strengthen laws to control substances used to produce ATS, and prosecute illicit ATS producers.\


Table 3: Most commonly used ATS manufacturing methods and th yields of the stated methods