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List of Announcements

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2017: Synthetic cannabinoids are not simply synthetic versions of the substances occurring in herbal cannabis, as street names such as “synthetic cannabis” or “synthetic marijuana” may suggest. They are a diverse group of potent psychoactive compounds that are designed to mimic the desired effects of cannabis, of which there are also many new products on the market.

    Recently, there has been growing recognition of the harm of intoxication that can result from synthetic cannabinoid use. The use of some products containing certain synthetic cannabinoids has been associated with severe adverse health events including hospitalisations and fatalities. Further intoxications and fatal cases associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids so far might have remained undetected due to toxicological knowledge gaps, particularly of newly emerging substances, and the interaction between synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs.

    Figure 1. Examples of chemical modifications leading to new synthetic cannabinoids

    Source: UNODC, responses to annual report questionnaire, 2010-2015.

    Note: Contains seizures in the form of herbal material, as well as powder and liquids.


    For more information, please see:

    UNODC “World Drug Report 2017
    http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2017: The new psychoactive substance (NPS) market continues to be very dynamic and is characterized by the emergence of large numbers of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups. Between 2009 and 2016, 106 countries and territories reported the emergence of 739 different NPS to UNODC. Marketed in many different ways and forms, new substances often emerge quickly and disappear again, while some become used regularly among a small group of users. Several countries have reported NPS being sold under the name of controlled drugs such as “LSD” and “ecstasy”. Often used for reasons similar to those for the use of traditional drugs, their easy availability and low prices have made certain NPS highly attractive to some groups of drug users. A market for some NPS in their own right now appears to have been established.

    A core group of over 80 NPS were reported every year during the period 2009-2015 and appear to have become established on the global market; a number of them have been placed under international control. On the other hand, about 60 NPS seem to have disappeared from the market since 2013. Problems in identifying them in a laboratory may be a factor, however, in the low level of reporting of these lesser-known substances.

     

    Figure 1. Number of different new psychoactive substances reported each year, 2009-2015

    Source: UNODC, early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances.

    For more information, please see:

    UNODC “World Drug Report 2017
    http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

     

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2017: The opioid market is becoming more diversified. This market comprises a combination of internationally controlled substances, particularly heroin, and prescription medicines that are either diverted from the legal market or produced as counterfeit medicines on a large scale. Some of these substances have remarkable pain-relieving properties and are widely used in human therapy; yet some are also liable to abuse and may produce dependence. The pills and powders containing synthetic opioids sold on the illicit market pose a threat to public health due to the variable quantity and potency of their active components, which in extreme cases, such as carfentanil, may be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Such products can prove particularly dangerous when sold as street heroin or as counterfeit prescription drugs without the user’s knowledge. The emergence of highly toxic substances, as has been the case in the opioid market (e.g. the “fentanyl overdose crisis”), shows the need for increased regulation and monitoring.

     

    Figure 1. Annual number of synthetic opioids reported to UNODC, 2012-2016

    Source: UNODC early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Includes only synthetic opioids reported as NPS (i.e., with no current approved medical use). Data for 2016 are preliminary.

     

    For more information, please see:

    UNODC “World Drug Report 2017
    http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/

    UNODC report on “Fentanyl and its analogues - 50 years on”
    https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Global_SMART_Update_17_web.pdf

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2017: Unlike the manufacture of heroin and cocaine, the manufacture of synthetic drugs is not geographically constrained, as the process does not involve the extraction of active constituents from plants that have to be cultivated in certain conditions for them to grow. Yet any analysis of the synthetic drugs market is complicated by the fact that information on synthetic drug manufacture is limited, which prevents the estimation of the volume of such drugs being manufactured worldwide.

    Nevertheless, data on seizures and use suggest that the supply of synthetic drugs is expanding. An increasing number of countries are reporting seizures of synthetic new psychoactive substances (NPS), with over 20 tons seized in 2015. Seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) doubled in the five years prior to 2015, to reach 191 tons in 2015.

    Figure 1. Annual amounts of synthetic new psychoactive substances seized globally, 2010-2015

     

    Source: UNODC, responses to annual report questionnaire, 2010-2015.

    Note: Figures exclude plant-based NPS and ketamine.

    For more information, please see:

    UNODC “World Drug Report 2017
    http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

     

  • LISBON, Portugal – June 2017: Implications of international cannabis policy developments on Europe, cocaine availability, the growing health threat of highly potent synthetic opioids and the changing nature of the New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) market, are among the issues addressed in the “European Drug Report 2017: Trends and Developments”, launched by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

    By the end of 2016, the EMCDDA monitored more than 620 NPS on the European drug market. Moreover, in 2015, almost 80,000 seizure cases of NPS were reported through the EU Early Warning System. Synthetic cathinones and synthetic cannabinoids together accounted for more than 60 per cent of all NPS seizure cases in 2015. Although fentanyl and its analogues are playing a relatively small role in the European drug market, these substances are reported to pose a serious threat to individual and public health in the region.

    For more information, please see:

    EMCDDA report on “European Drug Report 2017: Trends and Developments”
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/system/files/publications/4541/TDAT17001ENN.pdf

    EMCDDA Country Drug Reports presenting summaries of national drug phenomena
    http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/edr2017

     

  • ENGLAND, United Kingdom – May 2017: Recent findings from a report of a UK-based specialist drug, alcohol and mental health treatment charity, named ‘Addaction’, have provided insight to young people’s views on the use of NPS, its repercussions and the help required. The study was conducted in autumn 2016 and involved more than 1,600 young people aged under 25 who live in England.

    Among the respondents of the online survey, lifetime prevalence of use of any drug was at 66 per cent with synthetic cannabinoids being the most commonly reported NPS. Three quarters of those having used any drug had used NPS. Motives of using NPS were to ‘have fun’ whilst others used them as a method of coping with difficult situations. Some participants indicated that they were not aware of the dangers or risks associated with NPS use. Significant adverse effects of NPS were reported, in terms of physical health and emotional wellbeing, with ‘delusions, hallucinations, panic or anxiety’ being listed as the most common adverse effects experienced. Some young people reported that they had mistakenly used NPS thinking it was cannabis or another illegal substance.

     

    Figure 1: Age of respondents online

    For more information, please see:

    New Psychoactive Substances Insight Report: “The View from Young People” - http://www.addaction.org.uk/sites/default/files/public/attachments/npsinsightreport.pdf

    New research reveals young people’s views on new psychoactive substances - http://www.addaction.org.uk/news/new-research-reveals-young-people%E2%80%99s-views-new-psychoactive-substances

  • LONDON, United Kingdom – April 2017: In April 2017, the National Crime Agency (NCA) issued a warning of fentanyl analogues mixed with heroin. Prior to this warning, the NCA, in a joint operation with West Yorkshire Police, discovered a laboratory suspected of manufacturing fentanyl and carfentanil. In parts of north-eastern England, the NCA has recently observed cases where fentanyl analogues were introduced as an additive to heroin. Public Health England also issued a drug alert to medical and emergency services, public health and drugs services, following recent overdose deaths in Yorkshire linked to the consumption of heroin mixed with fentanyl and carfentanil.