A Japanese chemistry professor is under investigation for allegedly “making” his students prepare MDMA, in a case reminiscent of the AMC series Breaking Bad.
Tatsunori Iwamura, 61, reportedly acknowledged that instructing the manufacturing of synthetic drugs was “illegal.” Nonetheless, he appears to have defended his actions. As Japan Times reports, Iwamura claims he was helping students with their “learning.” The news broke on April 16, via Kyodo News Agency.
Eleven students are suspected to have been under Iwamura’s instruction from 2011 through 2013.
“Cooking” methamphetamine (also known as crystal meth) formed the basis for Breaking Bad. The cult series, starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, told the story of a high school chemistry professor-turned-drug kingpin. Scenes frequently showed Cranston and Paul’s characters preparing methamphetamine from scratch. In the show, Walter White (Cranston) never brought his drug empire to the classroom. He did, however, instruct former student Jesse Pinkman (Paul) in the art of “cooking” meth.
Iwamura is also understood to have been involved in the production of the designer drug 5F-QUPIC, per Japan Today.
Production of narcotics for academic purposes requires a license in Japan. Iwamura’s license was both “expired” and issued by a prefecture not affiliated with his college. That in mind, the College of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Matsuyama University in Ehime Prefecture has issued a statement of apology regarding Iwamura.
“We sincerely apologize for causing major concern to students and their parents,” said university president Tatsuya Mizogami.
Iwamura is said to have been investigated by a “regional drug enforcement authority.” The MDMA alleged to have been produced has “not been found,” though traces of a different narcotic were “discovered” in Iwamura’s lab. An anonymous outsider is said to have given authorities the tip. The university’s president also pledged that “measures” would be taken to avoid a repeat performance. He likewise confirmed that Iwamura would face “disciplinary action.”
Concern over individuals attempting to replicate Breaking Bad‘s meth preparation became widespread as the series gained popularity. In 2016, The Guardian reported that Italian rugby player Lorenzo Bocchini was allegedly running a “Breaking Bad-style” meth lab.
As viewers of Breaking Bad will know, the molecular nature of chemicals required to produce methamphetamine is highly unstable. The slightest miscalculation in proportions can easily result in explosions, which makes the process especially concerning, even more so due to the illicit nature of the activity.
Japan Times reports that Iwamura “took” the illegally-produced drugs for his “own possession.” This appears to pertain to an incident that took place between 2016 and 2017, similar to the alleged incidents from 2011 to 2013. The latter saw an assistant professor and two students also involved in the production of MDMA.