Precursor Chemicals

This website section provides information for companies dealing in precursor chemicals in Ireland, including licencing and registration of operators, procedures and requirements governing the movement of precursor chemicals, and information about the duties of a responsible officer.

About precursor chemicals

Precursor chemicals, also known as scheduled substances or drug precursors, are used in the illegal manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances. They also have legitimate commercial uses and are legally used in a wide variety of industrial processes and consumer products, such as medicines, flavourings and fragrances.

It is necessary to recognise and protect the legal trade of these chemicals while at the same time preventing their diversion from such trade for use in the illegal manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances. For example, ‘phenylacetic acid’ is used legally in the production of penicillin, flavourings, perfume and cleaning solutions, but it can also be used in the illegal manufacture of amphetamines and methamphetamines.

Monitoring precursor chemicals

Harmonised legislation across Europe puts a control system in place to achieve a balance between preventing diversion of, without inhibiting legal trade in, precursor chemicals. This legislation requires member states to monitor the trade in their country including the movement of precursor chemicals into and out of their country. Monitoring is carried out through measures such as the licensing and registration of operators, procedures and requirements governing movement of the chemicals, as well as documentation and labelling. 

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is the monitoring body responsible for implementing the United Nations international drug control conventions. The INCB monitors Governments' control over precursors and other chemicals used in the illicit manufacture of drugs and assists in preventing the diversion of those chemicals into the illicit traffic.

In Ireland, the HPRA is the competent authority responsible for monitoring activities relating to precursor chemicals and ensuring that operators in Ireland who manufacture, supply, possess and/or use precursor chemicals comply with European legislation. Information about licensing, registration and applying for import/export authorisations is available in the pages within this website section.