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List of Announcements

  • Aug-2018

    The seizure of a multi-kilogram shipment of “ecstasy” (MDMA) in powder form earlier this year was unusual for Uruguay but did not yet ring the alarm bells for the staff of the Uruguayan Early Warning System in Montevideo. “However, when reports of young people suffering from an “ecstasy” overdose kept coming in from hospitals, we got really worried” said Héctor Suarez, who coordinates the system. It seemed that young people, who in Uruguay are more familiar with “ecstasy” sold as pills, were at risk of overdosing the crystalline and potentially higher potency MDMA which was coming into the country in comparatively large quantities in 2018. “It was at this point when we decided to go public to make sure this information reaches all relevant people and institutions and helps to minimize the risk of further overdoses”, Mr. Suarez informed the participants from other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean at a recent COPOLAD workshop in Montevideo (26-217 July 2018). In addition to drug experts from Antigua y Barbuda, Argentina, the Bahamas, Colombia Ecuador, Jamaica Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay, participants from the Czechia, Poland, OAS/CICAD, EMCDDA and UNODC shared their experiences in early warning. “UNODC supports laboratories in Latin America and the Caribbean to ensure health-relevant information is available for early warning on drugs” said Martin Raithelhuber, who manages the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on New Psychoactive Substances. “This directly contributes to reducing health risks”, Mr. Raithelhuber added.

    In November 2018, UNODC will conduct a forensic capacity building workshop for 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean which will receive modern handheld electronic field testing devices to enhance their capacity to detect new psychoactive substances which are a potential threat for public health. The data generated with the help of these devices is not only useful for law enforcement, border control or laboratories but also for national early warning systems which will receive faster and more detailed information about changes in the drug market.

    A particular characteristic of the regional drug situation is – in addition to cannabis and cocaine use - the comparatively high prevalence of hallucinogenic drugs. The situation is complicated by the fact that drugs sold as “ecstasy“, “2C-B“ or “LSD“ do not always contain the expected psychoactive substances and a range of NPS have been identified in products sold under these drug names which have led to hospitalizations including fatal cases.


  • USA – July 2018:According to a Health Alert Network Health Update from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug submissions to the United States National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) testing positive for fentanyl and fentanyl analogues have doubled from 14,440 in 2015 to 34,119 in 2016. The trend seems to continue with 25,460 reports for fentanyl and fentanyl analogues being recorded in the database in the first six months of 2017 alone. Among the fentanyl analogues, the number of reports for the highly toxic  Carfentanil increased from 1,251 in 2016 to 2,268 in 2017 while methylfentanyl, furanylfentanyl, and acrylfentanyl have also been rising in prominence.  Furthermore, the United States National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicated that more than 55% of the opioid overdose deaths involved synthetic opioids in the 12-month period ending November 2017, accounting for more than 27,000 deaths.

    An increasing number of synthetic opioids on the drug market, particularly fentanyl analogues, has also been reflected in reports of Member States to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory (EWA). By the end of 2017, 34 synthetic opioids were registered in the EWA. In June 2018, UNODC launched an integrated strategy responding to the global opioid crisis.

    For more information, please see:

    Global SMART Update Volume 17 “Fentanyl and its analogues- 50 years on”

    Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Update on “Rising Numbers of Deaths Involving Fentanyl and Fentanyl Analogues, Including Carfentanil, and Increased Usage and Mixing with Non-opioids”

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: Only a few substances seem to have established markets of their own or replaced traditional drugs. Nevertheless, the harm caused by NPS use remains considerable. Some single substances have become cemented in niche markets, specifically among small and vulnerable population groups, while others have penetrated the existing established markets of controlled substances, increasing the complexity of the offer of products in the market.

    In several countries, patterns of NPS use of among marginalized, vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups, including homeless people and people with mental health disorders, continue to be widely documented. The injecting use of stimulant NPS also remains a concern, in particular because of reported associated high-risk injecting practices. In addition to the high number of daily injecting episodes, the rate of sharing and reusing of injecting equipment is high among people who inject drugs (PWID) that inject stimulants. NPS use in prison and among people on probation remains an issue of concern in some countries in Europe, North America and Oceania.


    Figures 1. Psychoactive substances found in discarded injecting paraphernalia in Hungary, 2016

    Source: Valéria Anna Gyarmathy and others, “Diverted medications and new psychoactive substances—a chemical network analysis of discarded injecting paraphernalia in Hungary”, 2017.


    For more information, please see:

    UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: Quantities of synthetic cannabinoids and ketamine have dominated global seizures of synthetic NPS since 2012. The number of countries reporting seizures of synthetic cannabinoids has been relatively stable, but the quantities reported have declined sharply since 2014. However, in 2016, seizures of plant-based NPS surged. Some 500 tons of kratom were intercepted during 2016, triple the amount of the previous year, suggesting a boom in its popularity. Moreover, between 2012 and 2016, more than 700 tons of khat were seized by 35 countries. Although khat is not under international control, many national jurisdictions do not allow the import of khat leaves. Significant khat seizures are reported to UNODC each year, mainly by authorities of countries outside the areas of traditional use.


    Figure 1. Annual quantities of new psychoactive substances seized globally, 2012 to 2016

    Source: UNODC, responses to the annual report questionnaire, 2012–2016.

    Note: Figures include ketamine and plant-based NPS.


    For more information, please see:

    UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: The NPS market continues to be dynamic as new substances emerge but a slower rate than in previous years. Some substances have established themselves on the drug market whilst others have disappeared after a short while. In 2016, 72 NPS were reported for the first time, a much smaller number than in 2015 (137 NPS). About 70 of the 130 NPS reported at the start of UNODC global monitoring in 2009 have since been reported every year to date. 60 NPS have not been reported since 2013 and may have disappeared from the market, although this is difficult to determine given the complexity of NPS identification in many parts of the world.

    Source: UNODC, World Drug Report 2018.


    For more information, please see:

    UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3

  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: In recent years, kratom has gained popularity in countries in North America and Europe as a plant-based NPS. At the global level, 31 countries reported the detection of kratom between 2012 and 2017. Kratom products are derived from the leaf of the kratom tree, which is used in South-East Asia as a traditional remedy for minor ailments and for non-medical purposes. Few countries have placed kratom under national legal control, making it relatively easy to buy. There are now numerous products around the world advertised as containing kratom, which usually come mixed with other substances. People who use opioids in the United States have reported using kratom products for the self-management of withdrawal symptoms. Some 500 tons of kratom were intercepted during 2016, triple the amount of the previous year, suggesting a boom in its popularity.

    For more information, please see:

    UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: Grouped by their main pharmacological effect, the largest portion of NPS reported since UNODC monitoring began are stimulants, followed by synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists and classic hallucinogens. Smaller effect groups such as opioids, dissociatives and sedatives/hypnotics have grown over the past few years, in proportional terms, at the expense of synthetic cannabinoids and classic hallucinogens. The number of NPS in each group and their growth does not necessarily indicate their scope of use and/or magnitude of threat to public health. This is demonstrated by NPS with opioid effects, which, albeit small in number, have been associated with a growing number of often fatal overdose events in recent years.

    Figure 1. Proportion of new psychoactive substances, by psychoactive effect group, December 2017

    Source: UNODC, early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Note: The analysis of the pharmacological effects comprises NPS registered up to December 2017. Plant-based substances were excluded from the analysis as they usually contain a large number of different substances, some of which may not have been known and whose effects and interactions are not fully understood.


    For more information, please see:

    UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


  • VIENNA, Austria – June 2018: According to the National Drug-Related Deaths Database, NPS-related deaths in Scotland increased by 44 per cent to 363 deaths in 2016, primarily due to the number of deaths involving benzodiazepine-type NPS such as etizolam and diclazepam. Deaths relating to etizolam increased from 58 deaths in 2015 to 270 deaths in 2016, accounting for 33 per cent of all drug-related deaths reported in Scotland that year. Deaths relating to diclazepam also increased significantly by 33 per cent to 134 deaths in 2016. Overall, all NPS-related deaths reported in Scotland in 2016 involved the use of multiple substances. Among all drug-related deaths in 2016, etizolam was the third most frequently identified substance reported among drug-related deaths in 2016, after heroin/morphine (reported in 56 per cent of all drug-related deaths) and methadone (reported in 43 per cent of all drug-related deaths). In 2016, etizolam was involved in more female than male drug-related deaths. Benzodiazepine-type NPS generally accounted for 81 per cent of all NPS-related deaths in 2015 and 98 per cent in 2016.

    Figure 1. NPS-related deaths in Scotland, 2009-2016

    For more information, please see:

    National Services Scotland report on “The National Drug-Related Deaths Database (Scotland)”

    UNODC Global SMART Update Volume 18 “Non-medical use of benzodiazepines: a growing threat to public health?”