Newsletter

If you want to receive our newsletter, please fill in your details:
Name
Email
Language English
Spanish
Suscribe
Unsubscribe   
 


Trees for Ecstasy

Tuesday, February 4, 2009

safrole-burningMany people believe that ecstasy is merely a synthetic drug that is manufactured solely with chemicals, so-called precursors. However, the main raw material for ecstasy, safrole, is extracted from various plants and trees in the form of safrole-rich oils—also known as sassafras oil. Preventing ecological damage and unsustainable harvesting of safrole-rich oils is urgently needed to preserve fragile ecosystems.

These oils may contain safrole levels of more than 80 percent or 90 percent. They are usually first converted into chemical precursors before being diverted from the legal trade to clandestine ecstasy labs. Safrole and its derivatives have many legal uses as well. It is marketed worldwide in large quantities as raw materials for the fragrance and pesticide industries.

The main production area is Southeast Asia and China. The current production methods of safrole-rich oils endanger both the flora and fauna in fragile ecosystems and impact on the livelihood of the local population. To produce the oil, entire wild and often rare forest trees are felled and the oil is steam-distilled from the timber, the root and stump. The wood is chopped into small blocks and shredded. This is then distilled in large metal vats over wood fires for at least five days. The firewood needed to steam-distill the oil exacerbates the harm.

In June 2008, the Cambodian government set up a media show, burning 1,278 drums of safrole-rich oil, with the help of the Australian Federal Police. However, burning illicitly produced oils will not contribute to a long-term solution, and might even be counterproductive. Eradication of unsustainable safrole-rich oil production only makes sense when viable and sustainable alternatives are in place.

A more effective approach would be to involve all stakeholders: The people now implicated in the harvesting, who need to be educated on sustainable harvesting and distilling methods; the chemical industry, which needs to produce raw materials in a responsible, environmentally friendly way; academic institutes involved in developing alternative plants and harvesting methods; and development organizations to fund and design alternative development programs for environmentally friendly and sustainable production of safrole-rich oil.  

For more information see: Harvesting Trees to Make Ecstasy Drug, The Irrawaddy, February 3, 2009

RecommendPrint

Publications

The Northern Triangle’s drugs-violence nexus
dc19

The role of the drugs trade in criminal violence and policy responses in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras

Read more...

Tags

show

This website

support-ec-osi-disclaimer-web

Other projects

TNI Drug Law Reform Project

Drug Law Reform in Latin America is a project of the TNI Drugs & Democracy programme

dd-logo
"Promoting a more effective and humane drug policy in Latin America"

UN Drug Control

In 2011 the 1961 UN Single Convention on drugs will be in place for 50 years. In 2012 the international drug control system will exist 100 years since the International Opium Convention was signed in 1912 in The Hague. Does it still serve its purpose or is a reform of the UN Drug Conventions needed? This site provides critical background.