Globally, Europe remains the main centre of ecstasy production, although its relative importance appears to be declining as ecstasy manufacture has spread to other parts of the world in recent years, notably to North America and East and South-East Asia (CND, 2005; INCB, 2005). In 2003, the number of ecstasy laboratories detected worldwide decreased (CND, 2005); in the EU, such laboratories were reported to have been uncovered in Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania and the Netherlands (Reitox national reports, 2004; CND, 2005). Ecstasy seized in the EU is reported to originate mainly from the Netherlands, followed by Belgium, although Estonia and the United Kingdom are also mentioned as source countries (Reitox national reports, 2003).

Ecstasy trafficking is still strongly concentrated in western Europe, although, like production, trafficking has spread throughout the world in recent years (UNODC, 2003a). In terms of quantities seized, in 2003 western and central Europe accounted for 58 %, followed by Oceania with 23 % (CND, 2005). In 2002, the Netherlands, for the first time, overtook the United Kingdom as the EU country seizing most ecstasy (77).

The number of ecstasy seizures (78) at EU level increased rapidly over the period 1998–2001. However, since 2002 numbers of seizures have decreased and, based upon trends in countries from which data are available, this decline seems likely to have continued in 2003. Quantities of ecstasy intercepted (79) increased steeply from 1998 to 2000 and since then at a slower pace. In 2003, however, quantities seized decreased in most of the countries reporting data. However, the apparent decline in EU ecstasy seizures (both numbers and quantities) in 2003 has to be confirmed against missing 2003 data – in particular from the United Kingdom – once they are available.

In 2003, the average cost of an ecstasy tablet at street level varied from less than €5 (Hungary, the Netherlands) to €20–30 (Greece, Italy) (80).

In 2003, most tablets sold as illicit drugs were found, when analysed, to contain only ecstasy (MDMA, the active substance) and ecstasy-like substances (MDEA, MDA) as the psychoactive ingredients. This was the case in Denmark, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Norway, where more than 95 % of tablets analysed contained these substances. However, two countries, Estonia and Lithuania, reported that a high percentage (94 % and 76 % respectively) of tablets analysed contained amphetamine and/or methamphetamine as the only psychoactive substances. The MDMA content of ecstasy tablets varies greatly from batch to batch (even among those with the same logo) both between and within countries. In 2003, the average MDMA content of ecstasy tablets ranged from 54 to 78 mg (81). Other psychoactive substances found in tablets sold as ecstasy in 2003 included MDA, MDE, PMA, PMMA, DOB, 5-MeO-DIPT, 4-MTA and 1-PEA (Reitox national reports, 2004).

(77) This should be checked against missing 2003 data when available. Data on numbers of ecstasy seizures in 2003 were not available for Italy, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Romania; data on neither number of ecstasy seizures nor quantities of ecstasy seized in 2003 were available for Ireland and the United Kingdom.

(78) See Table SZR-9 (part i) in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(79) See Table SZR-10 (part i) in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(80) See Table PPP-4 (part i) in the 2005 statistical bulletin.

(81) This range is based on data from a few countries only, namely Denmark, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.