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Interview with manufacturers

Have you ever thought about making your own E? I talked to some people who carried that thought right through to a good quality product.

How did you start?
Three of us spent about 3 years planning ­p; reading up syntheses; finding equipment and buying materials. None of us had any previous laboratory experience apart from my school chemistry, and we didn't know anyone in the business. We just liked Ecstasy and decided to do it.

Where did you get supplies?
Getting equipment without arousing suspicion was difficult. Laboratory suppliers would not sell us anything more complex than a thermometer for cash over the counter, otherwise they would ask us to open an account and then want bank and trade references. When I tried to open a business bank account, the bank asked for identification and the precise nature of my intended business! So we looked for existing companies who had accounts with suppliers, and tried to make personal contacts so that orders could be placed and passed on to us. Approaching these people was risky in itself as they might inform the police or blackmail us, and they would double the price. However, we found some pieces of equipment in theatre prop shops and even car boot sales ­p; it was nearly all glassware, as we used laboratory rather than production methods. That meant we had a lot of breakages which sometimes held up production for ages until we found replacements.

What about precursors?
Key precursors, such as safrole, had to be bought from black market sources at very high prices. Even solvents were not available without question, and some ingredients required a poisons license, although we found a couple of Indian suppliers who took cash and asked no questions. But we couldn't buy everything we wanted in Britain and were afraid to import, which meant we had to make some precursors ourselves. We spent £4,000 in all.

How did you actually make it?
We rented a basement flat for the purpose. Then we experimented to find the best method. We studied everything we could get hold of including chemistry textbooks; PIHKAL by Alexander Shulgin; Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture and even patents in the Patent Office*. It was much harder than we expected ­p; even following instructions to the letter, some reactions simply did not happen while others were so violent they that broke the apparatus. All the recipes, including Shulgin's, had small but vital steps missing so we had to piece together a recipe by looking for clues in other books and patents. It was weeks before we worked out a good method.

How long did it take?
One kilo of MDMA took about 2 weeks continuous work for three people. That was because some processes could only be done in 50 gram batches. We used 75 litres of solvents which we had no way of recondensing and we had no fume cupboard, so all that was boiled off producing vast amounts of vapour which was heavier than air and would fill up the basement. There were toxic fumes, some were highly poisonous, and a lot of spillages because we got over-tired. Sometimes we were left coughing and ill from inhaling fumes which hurt our eyes and made us giddy.

We were also worried about explosions which could be sparked off by the vacuum pump motor, so when things got really bad we had to evacuate the basement and the fumes could be seen drifting out of the windows. Once a flask of ether exploded, and during the Ritter reaction hot sulphuric acid and methyl cyanide shot up to the ceiling and dripped down onto us! I think it has permanently damaged my lungs.

How about selling it?
That was surprisingly difficult. We tried to find a single dealer but were afraid that those who could afford to buy in kilos would be connected to criminals and might turn up with guns. So we ended up selling in smaller amounts which meant that far too many people were into our secret, and even then we could not get more than the usual trade price of £40 per gram even though our product was pure. The whole thing became a bit of a nightmare although one of my partners found it exhilarating.

What would you do different if you started again?
I would go for a larger scale. I think the risks would be lower because we would be able to pay someone else to obtain the equipment and materials; also we could afford safer premises, better equipment and security.

©Nicholas Saunders 1995 index
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