The Agony and Ecstasy of Synthetic Drugs

More than 30 million people use amphetamine, methamphetamine (meth), or ecstasy at least once a year – more than the combined number of those who take cocaine and heroin. And, despite success in combating the problem in the developed world, the speed epidemic is spreading rapidly in developing countries.

NEW YORK – The world is speeding up. Communications, travel, and productivity are increasing. For some people, synthetic drugs have become a way to deal with today’s fast and competitive times.

Around the world, in order to enhance performance, people are popping pills and powder known as amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). From ravers in all-night discos to assembly-line workers or long-haul truckers, more than 30 million people use amphetamine, methamphetamine (meth), or ecstasy at least once a year – more than the combined number of those who take cocaine and heroin. The global market for these stimulants is estimated at $65 billion.

Part of the attraction of these synthetic drugs is that they are readily available, affordable, and convenient to use (no need to shoot up, snort, or smoke). Amphetamines speed up the way the body works: users experience increased confidence, sociability, and energy. This buzz is considered harmless: “pills do not kill or spread HIV/AIDS,” it is said.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now