International drug trade drives illicit safrole-oil factories deep in the Cardamom mountains.
By Sam Campbell — Special to GlobalPost
“Clandestine factories deep in the Cardamom Mountains of western Cambodia are producing safrole oil — also known as sassafras oil — the main ingredient in the party drug Ecstasy.
The recreational drug produces a euphoria its users say is so good even yawning is unparalleled while under its influence. But this euphoria is not without its downside — and not just the toll it takes on the brain, which at least one animal study shows can still be detected seven years from the time of use
There is a growing, and perhaps just as deadly, the price being paid by the local environment. Trees containing the vicious, fragrant, safrole oil are felled during the manufacturing process. Their oil-rich roots are mechanically shredded and boiled in large cauldrons. The resulting mixture is then distilled over fires that require enormous quantities of firewood to fuel them. ”