Are synthetic drugs eclipsing the cocaine trade in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Raised of $10,500 Goal
Ended on 11/25/23
Campaign Ended
  • $151
  • 2%
  • Finished
    on 11/25/23

About This Project

For decades, Colombian cartels have been the world's top producers and exporters of cocaine.

Howver, my investigation pivots towards an emerging and perhaps unexpected phenomenon: the rise of synthetic drugs in the region, with a spotlight on Tusi, often termed "pink cocaine".

My goals are multifaceted: to uncover the driving forces behind this shift, to map the supply and distribution networks of these synthetics, and to determine the new money laundering strategies.

Ask the Scientists

Join The Discussion

What is the context of this research?

The supply chain and logistical challenges are fundamental aspects of drug trafficking organizations. Historically, law enforcement efforts primarily targeted disrupting the cultivation of drug crops, making production more difficult and costly, albeit with inconsistent results.

Synthetic drugs present a distinct scenario. Unlike traditional drugs reliant on crops vulnerable to climate and law enforcement, synthetic drugs are chemically manufactured.

Their supply chain involves sourcing precursor chemicals, manufacturing, and distribution, offering organized crime groups new opportunities and law enforcement new challenges.

What is the significance of this project?

The last decade has seen an unprecedented surge in the production and distribution of synthetic drugs, marking a pivotal shift in the global drug trade.

Among these, fentanyl stands out not only due to its potency but also because of its widespread presence across continents. Its rise underscores a pressing need to understand and address the broader implications of synthetic drug proliferation.

Synthetic drugs, unlike traditional narcotics sourced from plants like coca or opium poppies, are chemically produced. This means their production can be more easily scaled, concealed, and modified. The production process doesn't rely on crop cultivation, making it less susceptible to environmental factors and eradication efforts.

What are the goals of the project?

I'll explore Colombia's synthetic drug trade, examining its dynamics and key players, and comparing them with the established cocaine market. This study involves understanding sales, supply chains, and geographical spread. I'll also evaluate the digital realm's influence, including internet, cryptocurrencies, and their roles in this domain.

Critical to my research are crime script analysis, which dissects the process of committing a crime, and social network analysis, identifying the hierarchy and connections within criminal networks.

I will use OSINT, web scraping, and public blockchain analysis, alongside social media and police reports. I'll also integrate insights from law enforcement and inmate interviews as well as data directly provided by local police.


Please wait...

Supporting my work not only helps cover my tuition fees but empowers me to delve deeper into a crucial and captivating issue. Living and conducting research directly in Colombia offers a unique, on-the-ground perspective that is invaluable. My daily observations and insights are chronicled in this intimate blog diary, giving a firsthand account of the challenges and intricacies of the synthetic drug trade.

With your backing, I can remain at the forefront of this issue, devise innovative strategies to combat synthetic drug production, and contribute meaningful solutions to a global challenge. Your support is not just funding my education; it's an investment in pioneering research with the potential to bring about significant change. I am on track to produce a groundbreaking PhD dissertation next year, and with your help, its impact can be monumental.

Endorsed by

I have worked closely with Neil on illicit synthetic drugs research in Medellín, Colombia. He not only lives here for his work, he is also highly committed to matters of anti-money laundering, counterterrorism financing and financial integrity in a part of the world that is becoming increasingly fragile due to illicit finance. Illicit synthetics are an emerging and important piece of this puzzle. That is why it is so important to understand this market and fund Neil's granular research objectives on the ground.

Project Timeline

Starting in 2023, the research will lay its foundation with rigorous data collection, setting the project's trajectory. 2024 shifts to data analysis and vital fieldwork, introducing real-world dynamics and potential variables. Collaborative inputs during this phase ensure objective and broad-based insights. By 2025, all findings converge into a thesis, culminating in its defense.

Oct 26, 2023

Project Launched

Jul 01, 2024

First published peer-reviewed articles

Jul 01, 2025

PhD viva

Jul 01, 2026


Meet the Team

Neil Amhis
Neil Amhis


University Colllege London
View Profile

Neil Amhis

I hail from a French-Algerian background, and my life's journey has been anything but linear.

My academic roots were planted in France at ENSAE and ENS, where I studied maths. It led me to Wall Street as a quant. The exhilaration was palpable, but soon, the skyscrapers felt confining, and I craved more substantive work.

I pivoted to the challenging world of Anti-Money Laundering (AML), applying my analytical skills to ensure the integrity of financial systems. On a more personal venture, I ventured into the world of entrepreneurship, crafting a distinctive food brand in the U.S. However, visa issues threw a curveball, forcing me to close my brand.

A new chapter began when I moved to Colombia. Here, I founded an accounting software business, tailored to local needs. I also embarked on a PhD journey in Medellín, in collaboration with University College London (UCL).

In addition to my ventures, I'm a writer, focusing on digital humanities. My reflections on the intersection of technology and culture can be accessed on my writer's profile.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Project Backers

  • 2Backers
  • 2%Funded
  • $151Total Donations
  • $75.50Average Donation
Please wait...