Beyond Fentanyl
Cryptocurrency’s role in the international drug precursor market

The fentanyl epidemic has long been regarded as a uniquely American tragedy. But it’s just one node in a vast network that encompasses most of the world’s trade in illicit synthetic drugs.

The factories that produce the world’s fentanyl precursors also manufacture and sell the key ingredients for almost every other common synthetic drug sold in European and Asian markets. A significant number of these factories are located in China.

In this report, we explore the inner workings of Chinese precursor drug manufacturers and take a closer look at how they are leveraging cryptocurrency in the production and sale of illicit synthetic drugs today.

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Key Insights:

Chinese precursor manufacturers received over USD 26 million in cryptocurrency in 2023. 11 manufacturers accounted for just over 70% of all crypto-denominated sales of drug precursors tracked by TRM Labs.

The amount of cryptocurrency deposited into wallets linked to Chinese precursor manufacturers increased by over 600% from 2022 to 2023, and more than doubled in the first four months of 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.

Around 60% of cryptocurrency payments to Chinese precursor manufacturers to date were made on the Bitcoin blockchain.