Peru Seizures Point to Popularity of Synthetic Drugs in Region

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The seizure of thousands of capsules of synthetic drugs in Lima illustrates the growing popularity of synthetic party drugs, such as 2CB, in Latin America, some of them easily obtained over the Internet.

Peru’s National Police seized an estimated 5,000 capsules of synthetic drugs and detained four dealers in Lima, reported Peru 21. The drugs included Ecstasy tablets, MDMA, LSD, and 2CB — a stimulant and hallucinogen which has been popular in Europe for some years.

According to experts consulted by Peru 21, these drugs can be obtained from the Netherlands and Canada via the Internet. A single dose of 2CB, which is often sold in nightclubs, costs around $50 to $60 in Lima. A police official told press that these synthetic drugs are difficult to track because they can be easily prepared in people’s homes.

InSight Crime Analysis

Synthetics drugs such as 2CB have recently been gaining popularity among young people in Latin America. According to the United Nations 2012 World Drug Report, while global production of cocaine and opium has fallen significantly in the past five years, synthetic drug production has risen, including both Ecstasy-like drugs like 2CB and “legal highs” specifically manufactured in order to avoid international controls on certain chemicals.

The Netherlands and Canada — the alleged sources of the drugs seized in Lima — have emerged as market leaders in this trade. The Netherlands is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of synthetic drugs, including amphetamines and Ecstasy-group substances. According to the United Nations’ 2011 Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) Assessment, as manufacture of Ecstasy has declined in Europe in recent years, production has increased in Canada, where Asian, Eastern European, and now Mexican criminal groups are involved in the trade.

In recent years, opportunities for online drug distribution have also increased. Many black market sites, such as the infamous Silk Road, are accessible via Tor, an network that makes it difficult for authorities to trace sites and identify users. Drugs are shipped either through private shipping companies or registered mail, but the relatively small quantities of drugs sent, often in vacuum-sealed bags, can make detection difficult. Forbes estimates that Silk Road brings in $22 million dollars in revenue a year.

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