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Czech Republic leads Europe in meth labs

Some see disproportionate drug production as a small country still testing the bounds of freedom after communism.

Runners cast shadows on the streets of Prague, a city with a notorious underbelly, in May 11, 2008. The Czech Republic has the most clandestine methamphetamine labs in all of Europe, according to a new Europol study. (Petr Josek/Reuters)

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Methamphetamine use is relatively low in Europe, but the Czech Republic far surpasses its neighbors for the number of clandestine meth labs within its borders.

Last year, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) joined Europol to study methamphetamines in Europe. The data is provisional, and not every country provided data. But the results so far are unambiguous.

Of the 483 meth labs discovered on the continent in 2008, all but 26 of them were in this small country of 10.3 million people.

Germany, which has eight times as many people, reported just 11 labs. Third on the list was the Czech's eastern neighbor and former federation partner, Slovakia, with just four labs exposed in 2008. The prevalence of such labs — and consumption — in the country of 5.2 million, though, is thought to be much more pervasive.

“The Czech Republic is the biggest European methamphetamine producer in small clandestine laboratories,” said Jakub Frydrych, director of the Czech police's anti-drug division. “The size of this problem in Slovakia is linked with the fact that they are smaller than we are, but they have the same problems, basically as we have."

Methamphetamine is a synthetic stimulant that can be produced at home in so-called kitchen-laboratories. Police fear these production facilities are proliferating.

“Czech police seize about 300-400 clandestine labs a year. These are mainly smaller labs but it can be considered as a success,” said Frydrych.

Perhaps, but no one knows how many more labs are out there.