VIENNA, Austria – November 2018: The non-medical use of opioids, both medicines and new psychoactive substances (NPS) with opioid effects is an ever-increasing concern for public health, safety and law enforcement authorities worldwide. Several of these substances are extremely potent and harmful with users often not sure of what they are taking. While the crisis is currently most visible in North America, parts of Africa and the Middle East, the emergence of NPS with opioid effects has also been reported from Europe and Asia. So far, a total of 60 different NPS with opioid effects have been reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS, including 50 fentanyl-related substances, as well as other synthetic opioids, such as U-48800 and U-50488. Between 2012 and 2018, 35 countries from Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Oceania and Africa reported the emergence of synthetic opioids.
UNODC responds to this crisis with an integrated strategy. The UNODC Integrated Strategy on the Global Opioid Crisis is a multi-pronged initiative, which combines early warning and trend analysis with national forensic and counternarcotic capacity building, international law enforcement operations, prevention and treatment as well as initiatives to promote use and access to opioids for medical and scientific purposes, while preventing misuse and diversion. The strategy seeks to work with a wide range of UN partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and other international and regional organizations, academia and civil society. More information as well as updates on events and activities can be found at the dedicated website of the strategy https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/opioid-crisis/index.html.
Figure: Number of different NPS with opioid effect reported to the UNODC EWA per year, 2012-2018
Source: UNODC Early Warning Advisory (EWA) on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), June 2018
*Note: Data collection is ongoing
For more information, please see:
UNODC Global Opioid Strategy
UNODC news story: Responding to global opioid crisis, UNODC launches strategy to protect public health
EWA news clip: September 2018 – Switzerland: Fifth WHO-UNODC Expert Consultation on NPS