Precursor chemicals, also known as scheduled substances or drug precursors, are chemicals that are known to be used in the illegal manufacture of narcotic drugs and psychoactive substances. These precursor chemicals 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.
There is harmonised legislation across Europe which puts a control system in place with the aim to achieve a balance between preventing diversion of, without inhibiting legal trade in, these 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.