GENEVA, Switzerland – December 2021: Since its start in 2013, the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS regularly provides scientific information to Member States and the World Health Organization (WHO) for the identification of the most harmful, prevalent and persistent NPS in support of review processes for national and international control. The WHO has announced the scheduling recommendations on psychoactive substances reviewed at the 44th Meeting of the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) held in a virtual format in Geneva from 11-15 October 2021. In total, five substances were critically reviewed by the ECDD, three of which were recommended for scheduling as listed below, while 4F-MDMB-BICA as well as benzylone were recommended to be kept under surveillance.
Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol:
Brorphine – (Schedule I)
Metonitazene – (Schedule I)
Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971:
Eutylone - (Schedule II)
In addition, pre-reviews were carried out for the plant-based NPS kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) together with mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, two substances occurring in kratom; and Phenibut, a substance used in medicine. The WHO recommended to keep kratom (Mitragyna speciosa) and Phenibut under surveillance.
The two synthetic opioids recommended for international control, brorphine and metonitazene, belong to a chemical group known as “nitazenes”, which shows structural differences to fentanyl analogues and may therefore fall outside of the typical scope of generic legislations for fentanyl analogues. “Nitazenes”, which were first reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS in 2019, may have a potency similar to fentanyl (Vandeputte et al., 2021) and thus pose a serious health risk.
Eutylone, a substance with stimulant effects, was reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS for the first time in 2013 by two countries. Since then, the substance has been reported by a total of 41 different countries over the time period 2013-2021.
Source: UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS, November 2021.
*Note: Data for 2021 are preliminary.
For more information, please see:
44th ECDD List of Substances Under Review
World Health Organization 44th Expert Committee on Drug Dependence
UNODC EWA: Synthetic opioids increase and diversify rapidly, newsclip (November 2021). Available at: www.unodc.org/LSS/Announcement/Details/1746b9f3-24ca-45e7-a1db-3c16d39fc6fe
UNODC EWA: Brorphine, a newly emerging synthetic opioid detected in post-mortem cases, newsclip (August 2020). Available at: https://www.unodc.org/LSS/Announcement/Details/21380025-9afb-494f-ad1f-d4a371489a65
UNODC, Current NPS Threats Volume IV (November 2021).
Global SMART Update Vol. 21 “Understanding the global opioid crisis”
Vandeputte MM, Van Uytfanghe K, Layle NK, St Germaine DM, Iula DM, Stove CP. Synthesis, Chemical Characterization, and μ-Opioid Receptor Activity Assessment of the Emerging Group of "Nitazene" 2-Benzylbenzimidazole Synthetic Opioids. ACS Chem Neurosci., Vol. 12(7), pp. 1241-1251 (April 2021).
***The Spanish translation of this news item is made possible thanks to a collaboration with OAS/CICAD, a partner of the UNODC EWA.***