New Narcotic Drugs and Their International Control

Sections

I. Introduction
II. First attempt: Article 14 (d) of the International Opium Convention signed at The Hague on 23 January 1912
III. Second attempt: Article 10 of the Convention signed at Geneva on 19 February 1925
IV. Third attempt: Article 11 of the Convention of 13 July 1931 for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs
V. Fourth attempt: Protocol signed in Paris on 19 November 1948 Bringing under International Control Drugs Outside the Scope of the Convention of 13 July 1931 for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs
VI. Conclusions

Details

Pages: 1 to 5
Creation Date: 1952/01/01

GENERAL

New Narcotic Drugs and Their International Control

Since the international conventions on narcotics were drawn up, chemistry has created new narcotics. The following article describes the mechanism by which the production of, and the trade in those new drugs can be brought under international control

I. Introduction

A noteworthy feature in the international instruments on narcotic drugs is the machinery for bringing new narcotic drugs under international control without the formalities of new treaties.

The instruments which provide for such machinery are the International Opium Convention signed at The Hague on 23 January 1912, the Convention signed at Geneva on 19 February 1925, the Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs signed at Geneva on 13 July 1931 and the Protocol signed in Paris on 19 November 1948, Bringing under International Control Drugs Outside the Scope of the Convention of 13 July 1931 for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs.

The authors of these international treaties realized that due to the march of progress in chemistry and pharmacology new narcotic drugs which were outside the scope of the existing conventions were being rapidly discovered and that the provision in these treaties of some device for bringing these new narcotic drugs under control was not only desirable but also necessary.

In order to fulfil its purpose, such machinery must operate with speed and effectiveness. The cumbersome procedure of amending the existing treaties or of concluding a new treaty in order to subject a newly-discovered narcotic drug to international control must therefore be avoided.

The making and improvement of this machinery from its first simple model to its present effectiveness was a slow process. It took almost forty years.

During this period, altogether four attempts were made to solve the problem of new drugs. These four attempts may be briefly described as follows:

II. First attempt: Article 14 (d) of the International Opium Convention signed at The Hague on 23 January 1912

This article provides that the "Contracting Powers shall apply the laws and regulations respecting the manufacture, import, sale, export of morphine, cocaine, and their respective salts:... ( d) To all new derivatives of morphine, of cocaine, or of their respective salts, and to every other alkaloid of opium, which may be shown by scientific research, generally recognized, to be liable to similar abuse and productive of like ill effects".

This first instrument did not have the direct effect of bringing new drugs under the Hague Convention. It merely imposed on the States Parties the obligation of applying their existing national narcotic laws, if any, on such new drugs, which were applied to drugs mentioned in the Convention.

The machinery for determining the addiction-producing quality of new drugs, as provided for in this article, was national and not international. Drugs suspected of producing addiction were not subject to international scientific study or analysis. No declaration or pronouncement on the addiction-producing quality of drugs by an international body of experts was required. The effect was that a State would be bound to apply its existing narcotic laws to a new drug if it had within its territory modern facilities for scientific research defining the addiction-producing quality of such drugs, while another State would not be bound to do so, if it did not possess these facilities.

Moreover, the machinery as provided in article 14 ( d) of The Hague Convention was restricted in its application. It could only deal with new derivatives of morphine, of cocaine, or of their respective salts, and every other alkaloid of opium. It could not, for instance, deal with the preparations of Indian hemp or synthetic drugs.

III. Second attempt: Article 10 of the Convention signed at Geneva on 19 February 1925

The machinery for bringing new narcotic drugs under international control as provided for in the Geneva Opium Convention of 1925, which was initiated under the auspices of the League of Nations, was certainly an improvement over the first attempts in The Hague Convention of 1912.

In the first place, the new machinery is broader in its application than that of the Hague Convention. While article 14 ( d) of The Hague Convention was only applicable to "new derivatives of morphine, of cocaine and their respective salts and to every other alkaloid of opium", article 10 of the 1925 Convention is applicable to "any narcotic drug to which the present Convention does not apply".

Secondly, under article 10 of the Geneva Opium Convention the determination or finding of the addiction-producing quality of a drug as a condition precedent to international control is entrusted to international bodies of experts instead of domestic or national institutions.

During the life of the League of Nations these international bodies of experts were the Office international d'hygiene publique and the Health Committee of the League of Nations.

When the United Nations succeeded the League of Nations, these bodies were replaced by the World Health Organization and its Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction.

Under article 10, the services of the World Health Organization are placed for this purpose at the disposal of all States Parties to that Convention. Any State Party may, therefore, set the machinery in motion by drawing the attention of the World Health Organization to drugs suspected of possessing addiction-producing qualities.

The notification of the finding by the World Health Organization and the communication of its recommendation to governments is handled through the instrumentality of the organs of the United Nations. For instance, when the World Health Organization, on the advice of its Expert Committee, finds that a drug is addiction-producing it informs, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Economic and Social Council of its finding and recommends that the drug be subject to international control in accordance with that Convention. The Council, in turn, communicates through the Secretary-General the recommendation to the States Parties. States Parties may notify the Secretary-General of their acceptances. When the Secretary-General notifies the Parties of these acceptances, the drug is under international control in so far as the States having accepted the recommendation are concerned.

Under article 10, the recommendation of the World Health Organization in respect of a new narcotic drug, has to be accepted by States before it becomes binding on them, and it is a well-known fact that such recommendations are generally accepted. For instance, the recommendation in respect of pethidine was accepted by all the States Parties to the Geneva Opium Convention. In addition, several States non-Parties also accepted the recommendation.

The following drugs were brought under control in accordance with the Geneva Opium Convention of 1925 under article 10 of that Convention :1

Eucodal and its preparations;

Dicodide and its preparations;

Dilaudide;

Preparations based on Indian hemp extract or tincture;

Benzoyl-morphine and other esters of morphine;

Acedicone, its salts and preparations;

Drugs in article I, paragraph 2, group I of the Limitation Convention;

Desomorphine;

Pethidine (dolantine, demerol).

By legal interpretation,2 article 10 of the Geneva Opium Convention is not applicable to a drug not itself addiction-producing but convertible into a drug capable of producing addiction.

IV. Third attempt: Article 11 of the Convention of 13 July 1931 for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs

The machinery provided in this article operates in two stages, namely, the national and the international.

In the first stage, the State Party concerned has to employ the facilities of scientific or medical research available within its territory to determine "to its satisfaction" whether or not the product in question3 is of medical or scientific value, and whether or not it is capable of producing addiction or of conversion into a product capable of producing addiction.

If the result of the investigation reveals that the product is of medical or scientific value but capable of producing addiction or of conversion into a product capable of producing addiction, the State concerned may for the time being authorize (by licence for instance) its manufacture limited to domestic medical and scientific needs and to quantities required for export orders in accordance with the provisions of the Convention. In other words, even at this first stage the provisions of the Convention already apply to this drug.

1

See O C. 1411, League of Nations document.

2

Report of the Advisory Committee on traffic in opium and other dangerous drugs of the League of Nations (twenty-first session), page 15.

3

The drug must be a product derived either from the group known as the phenanthrene alkaloids of opium or from the other group known as the ecgonine alkaloids of the coca leaf.

If the result of the investigation is negative, the provisions of the Convention do not apply.

In the second stage, the services of the international bodies of experts and of the organs of the United Nations are brought into play.

When the government concerned issues a licence permitting the manufacture of the product in question in the circumstances described above, it shall immediately notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations to that effect, and the Secretary-General shall in turn advise the other Contracting Parties and the World Health Organization. Thereupon, the World Health Organization refers the notification to its Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction for study and advice.

If the World Health Organization, acting on the advice of its Expert Committee, decides that the product in question is capable of producing addiction, it shall so notify the Secretary-General, who will in turn communicate the notification to the States Parties to the Convention, both Members and non-members of the United Nations. Upon receipt of this communication, the product in question falls under article I, paragraph 2, group I, of the Convention and the States Parties are under obligation to apply to the product the laws which are applied to the drugs in group I.

If, however, the World Health Organization, acting on the advice of its Expert Committee, decides that the product in question is not itself capable of producing addiction but is convertible into such a drug, it must refer to a body4 of three experts the question whether this product falls under sub-group ( b) of group I or under group II.

When the three experts decide that the product falls under sub-group ( b) of group I or group II, such decision shall be notified to the Secretary-General, who, in turn, will notify the States Parties Upon receipt of such notification, the States Parties shall apply the appropriate provisions of the Convention according to whether the product falls under group I ( b) or group II.

The following drugs have been brought under the Limitation Convention of 1931 through the application of article 11 as group I ( a) drugs. Desomorphine and methyldihydromorphinone hydrochloride (metopon hydrochloride).

4

The three experts are selected in the following manner: one member by the government concerned; one by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, and the third by the two members.

A few general observations may be made concerning the machinery provided for in article 11 of the Limitation Convention of 1931.

In the first place, the decisions of the expert bodies virtually placing new narcotic drugs under the Limitation Convention of 1931 are binding on the States Parties to that Convention after they have been published by the Secretary-General.-They are not mere recommendations which should be accepted by the Contracting Parties, as in article 10 of the 1925 Convention.

Secondly, the product in question is examined and studied by both national and international expert institutions, which are available to all States Parties.

Thirdly, the provisions of the Convention apply immediately and provisionally during the interim period when the product is under study by the World Health Organization and its Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction. During this interim period, only limited manufacture or trade is permitted.

It is, however, limited in application. The wording of article 11 is such that the machinery provided therein could only deal with new derivatives of morphine or of their respective salts, and every other alkaloid of opium, as well as with new derivatives of cocaine. It cannot deal with new drugs made by synthetic processes, for instance.

V. Fourth attempt: Protocol signed in Paris on 19 November 1948 Bringing under International Control Drugs Outside the Scope of the Convention of 13 July 1931 for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs

This Protocol incorporates by reference both the machinery for bringing new drugs under international control and the control measures provided for in the Limitation Convention of 1931 with a few important modifications. The following general observations may be made of this new machinery in the Protocol.

In the first place, the machinery provided in this Protocol is applicable to all drugs outside the scope of the 1931 Convention; its application is not limited to those of the phenanthrene alkaloids of opium or ecgonine alkaloids of coca leaf as in article 11 of the 1931 Convention.

Secondly, pending the publication of the finding of the World Health Organization, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is authorized to invoke in respect of the product in question interim control measures in accordance with the provisions of the Limitation Convention of 1931, if by a simple majority vote it decides to do so. Such decision by the Commission on 3 Narcotic Drugs is binding on the States Parties to the Protocol.

Thirdly, the World Health Organization, on the advice of its Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction, not only passes on drugs falling under article I, paragraph 2, group I of the 1931 Convention, for which the control measures are much more stringent, but also decides whether the product in question falls under article I, paragraph 2, group II. The body of three experts provided for in article 11 of the 1931 Convention in such a case is dispensed with in the application of the Protocol.

Fourthly, the improved machinery proves to be workable and to work with speed. Since the Protocol came into force on 1 December 1949, the machinery has been set in motion and has brought some fourteen narcotic drugs under international control.

To illustrate, it may be mentioned here that the Government of the United States, pursuant to article I, paragraph 1 of the Protocol, addressed on 17 October 1950 a notification to the Secretary-General stating that fourteen named5 drugs, all of which are or may be used for medical or scientific purposes and to which the Convention of 13 July 1931 does not apply, are considered liable to the same kind of abuse and productive of the same kind of harmful effects as the drugs specified in article I, paragraph 2, of the said Convention. Certain reports on results of research from the United States Public Health Hospital at Lexington were submitted with the notification.

Upon receipt of this notification and the enclosures, the Secretary-General transmitted on 15 November 1950, the United States notification together with the aforementioned research reports to the other States Parties to the Protocol, to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and to the World Health Organization.

In accordance with article I, paragraph 2, the World Health Organization found that ten of the fourteen named drugs were capable of producing addiction and, therefore, decided that these ten drugs should fall under the régime laid down in the 1931 Convention for the drugs specified in article I, paragraph 2, group I of that Convention; and further that two of the fourteen named drugs, dihydrocodeine and acetyldihydrocodeine, were convertible into drugs capable of producing addiction and, therefore, decided that these two drugs should fall under the régime laid down for the drugs in group II of said article.

5

The named drugs are 1-methyl-4-phenyl-piperidine-4-carboxylic acid ethyl ester (in the form of the hydrochloride, known under the names of dolantin, demerol, pethidine, isonipecaine, etc); 4-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-1-methyl-4-piperidyl ethyl ketone hydrochloride (known as ketobemidone); 1-methyl-4-metahydroxyphenyl-piperidine-4-carboxylic acid ethyl ester (known as bemidone); α-1, 3-dimethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxy piperidine (known as NU-1196, or nisentil); β-1, 3-dimethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxy piperidine (otherwise identified by symbol NU-1779), β-1-methyl-3-ethyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxy piperidine (otherwise identified by symbol NU-1932); 4, 4-diphenyl-6-dimethylamino-heptanone-3 (also known as methadone, amidone, dolophine, adanon, etc ); 4, 4-diphenyl-5-methyl-6-dimethylamino-hexanone-3 (known as isoamidone); 6-dimethylamino-4, 4-diphenyl-3-heptanol (otherwise identified by symbol N I H-2933); 6-dimethylamino-4, 4-diphenyl-3-acetoxyheptane (otherwise identified by symbol N I H-2953); 6-morpholino-4, 4-diphenyl-3-heptanone (also known as CB-11, heptazone or heptalgin); 3-hydroxy-N-methyl morphinan (otherwise known under the symbol identification NU-2206); dihydrocodeine; and acetyldihydrocodeine

As regards the remaining two drugs, NU-1932 and NU-2206, it was stated in the notification that the Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction, of the World Health Organization, would consider them at its next session.

These findings by the World Health Organization were notified on 29 January 1951 to the Secretary-General who transmitted the notification on 5 March 1951 to the States Members of the United Nations and non-member States Parties to the Protocol. These drugs were subject to the international control according to the appropriate régime laid down in article I, paragraph 2 of the 1931 Convention, as soon as the communication of the Secretary-General reached the States Parties to the Protocol.

The two remaining drugs6 on which the findings and decisions of the World Health Organization are yet to be notified have since been provisionally put under the régime laid down in the 1931 Convention for the drugs in group I, by the resolution of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs7 taken in pursuance of article 2 of the Protocol during its sixth session held in New York from 10 April to 24 May 1951. In brief, within the short period of a few months all the fourteen drugs specified in the notification of 17 October 1950 of the Government of the United States have been put under international control.

VI. Conclusions

Experience over a period of forty years has thus shown that the machinery for bringing new narcotic drugs within the scope of international treaties is not only desirable but also necessary, so long as modern pharmacology and chemistry keep on discovering and developing new drugs which are not covered by the treaties already in force.

Such machinery obviates the necessity of amending the existing treaties or drawing up new treaties for the control of new drugs, as the procedure both for amending treaties and concluding new treaties is cumbersome and subject to delays, while the submission of a new narcotic drug to international control before it is admitted into the channels of trade is urgent.

6

NU-1932 and NU-2206

7

Report to the Economic and Social Council (document E/1998, pages 7-8)

For this reason, in any revision of the existing agreements, conventions and protocols on narcotic drugs, consideration must be given to inclusion of some simple and effective machinery for bringing new narcotic drugs under control, as provided for in the international treaties on narcotic drugs which are now in force.

For this reason, in the course of consolidating into a single instrument and revising the existing international conventions on narcotic drugs, referred to hereinabove, the Secretariat of the United Nations has prepared a "Draft of the Single Convention"8 in which the machinery for bringing new narcotic drugs under international control is simplified and made more effective and flexible The proposed draft of a single convention would vest in the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs the authority of deciding, by a simple majority, to place a new narcotic drug under international control9 The decision would be binding on each State Party to the proposed single convention, upon expiry of sixty days after receipt of a notification that the applicable provisions of the proposed single convention are satisfied, and of a copy of the Commission's decision10 It is, however, also provided that a State shall not be bound by such a decision, if it files with the Secretariat a notice of rejection within the period of sixty days.11 In this event, the State rejecting such decision "shall nevertheless be bound to observe the provisions of the (proposed single) convention in respect of the export of such a drug to a Party which shall not have rejected the said decision, or to a State not bound by said decision which shall have furnished estimates for the drug in question".12

8

See document E/CN 7/AC 3/3 This work was authorized by the Economic and Social Council in resolution 246 D (IX) of 6 July 1949 at the recommendation of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its fourth session (E/1361; E/CN 7/186, annex B, sec. 15 (4))

9

Idem, section 2

Besides, the decision of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs bringing a new narcotic drug under control may be modified, or set aside, by the Economic and Social Council13 The validity of any decision of the Commission bringing a new narcotic drug under control may also be made subject to approval by the Economic and Social Council, if the Commission so chooses; or by the General Assembly, if the Council decides to do so.14

In reaching a decision which has to do with the medical or pharmaceutical properties of a drug, the Commission would be bound to consult the World Health Organization or its Expert Committee.15

10

Idem, section 3 (3), and section 12 (3)

11

Idem, section 3 (3)

12

Idem, section 35 (2)

13

Idem, section 12 (1 a)

14

Idem, section 12 (1 b and c).

15

Idem, section 12 (2)