HomeNewsBriefSynthesized 'Spirit Molecule' Caters to Evolving Chile Drug Demand
BRIEF

Synthesized 'Spirit Molecule' Caters to Evolving Chile Drug Demand

CHILE / 6 JUN 2019 BY MAYRA ALEJANDRA BONILLA EN

The dismantling of a laboratory in Chile used to synthesize the hallucinogenic drug DMT shows that an ever-widening range of psychoactive drugs is in high demand in wealthy Latin countries.

On May 24, authorities discovered a laboratory dedicated to the processing of N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT or N, N-DMT), known as the "spirit molecule." The laboratory was found in Antofagasta, a port city in northern Chile. A 22-year-old electronic engineering student was arrested and 270,945 doses of DMT were seized.

While DMT has previously been found in Chile, prosecutors said this was the first time a laboratory dedicated to its processing was discovered there.

Regional prosecutor Alberto Ayala said the seizure came after a monthlong collaboration with police and warned that it's likely a sign DMT consumption is occurring nationwide. He added the discovery "could mean serious consequences not only for our region [Antofagasta] but for the country."

SEE ALSO: Chile News and Profile

DMT is synthesized from a substance extracted from the Mimosa hostilis or tenuiflora, a plant grown and cultivated in much of Latin America, including Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Belize and Mexico. It is best known for being one of the main components in the ayahuasca brew, a hallucinogenic tea often used in ceremonies by indigenous communities in the Amazon. Tourists have also been drawn to the ayahuasca experience.

Erich Ehrenfeld Zapata, head of Chile's anti-narcotics police squad (OS-7), said that the drug's raw materials were bought legally online from Brazil and that doses of 50 milligrams can be sold for 10,000 Chilean pesos ($14).

InSight Crime Analysis

Some indigenous communities in Latin America, such as the Maya in Mexico and various tribes of Brazil, have long recognized the healing properties of ayahuasca as well as its psychoactive effects. While often used to produce deep hallucinations, the DMT molecule has also been researched for its potential as an antidepressant.

Its processing in Chile, however, highlights that the consumer market for such drugs is increasing in one of South America's richer countries. From 2017 to 2019, the consumption of synthetic drugs, especially ecstasy, has increased by 680 percent, according to police figures.

The head of anti-narcotics of Chile's national police (Jenanco), Alejandro Eberl, reported that synthetic drugs were "originally drugs for the elite, but today, they are massively used, they are in the hands of people from different socio-economic classes."

SEE ALSO: Colombia Sees Booming Market for Synthetic Drugs at Home and Abroad

The United States, Asia, and Europe have long dominated the market for synthetic drugs. But more recently, wealthier South American countries have become significant consumer markets.

According to a 2017 synthetic drug report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, South America first saw in 2013 the wide-scale appearance of this class of drugs, which include MDMA, LSD, ketamine, methamphetamines, and ever-changing compounds, such as 2-CB, synthetic cannabinoids, bath salts, and poppers.

But DMT appears to be a new player in this market. And it may take time for criminal groups to catch up, as there have been little to no reports about them capitalizing on the processing and sale of the drug.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

CHILE / 17 FEB 2015

Drug trafficking groups in Paraguay can earn almost 20 times more selling marijuana in Chile than on the domestic market,…

CHILE / 27 APR 2011

A Chilean judge found eighteen members of a drug trafficking group known as "Los Gaete" guilty of various…

CHILE / 8 JAN 2013

Groups behind a string of arson attacks in southern Chile have had contact with Colombian Marxist rebel group the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.