skip to the main content area of this page

February 2020 – EMCDDA: Change in NPS types involved in drug-related hospital emergencies in Europe

LISBON, Portugal – February 2019: A new report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) finds that in comparison to other established illicit drugs (66.9%), NPS only accounted for 6.2% of the drugs involved in all emergency presentations recorded in the European Drug Emergencies Network (Euro-DEN) Plus (see Table 1), based on almost 24,000 drug-related hospital emergencies presented at 32 sentinel hospitals in Europe. The two most common categories of NPS involved were cathinones (most commonly mephedrone) and synthetic cannabinoids. There was a significant change in the proportions of presentations involving these two NPS categories over the study period, with the predominant type of NPS changing from cathinones in 2014 (76.9%) to synthetic cannabinoids (69.5%) in 2017. The increase in synthetic cannabinoid presentations indicates their potential for severe toxicity. 

These findings are consistent with the analysis of toxicology cases reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS (EWA), where synthetic cannabinoids feature prominently in toxicology cases reported globally between 2016 and 2019. As the discussion on the international control status of several NPS continues, four synthetic cannabinoids including AB-FUBINACA, 5F-AMB-PINACA (5F-AMB, 5F-MMB-PINACA), 5F-MDMB-PICA (5F-MDMB-2201) and 4F-MDMB-BINACA were recently recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be added to Schedule II of the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 at the upcoming 63rd Session of the Commission of Narcotic Drugs in March 2020.

Table 1: Frequency distribution of the main drug groups among all drugs identified in Euro-DEN Plus presentations, 2014-17

For more information, please see:

EMCDDA (2020), Drug-related hospital emergency presentations in Europe: update from the Euro-DEN Plus expert network, Technical report, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

UNODC (2019), Current NPS Threats Volume I.

UNODC (2020), Current NPS Threats Volume II.

WHO (2019), Recommendations of the 42nd Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.

WHO (2019), Summary of the rationale for the recommendations of the 42nd Expert Committee on Drug Dependence.

UNODC (2018), “Understanding the synthetic drug market: the NPS factor”, Global SMART Update Volume 19.

go back