INCB: Designer Drugs are Escalating out of Control

2 March  (UN Information Service) - Designer drugs are produced faster and in growing numbers, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says in its Annual Report 2010, launched today.

These drugs are often produced by modifying the molecular structure of illegal substances, resulting in a new product with similar effects - which then circumvents control measures. Detailed instructions for the manufacture of designer drugs are often shared via the Internet. In Europe, 16 new designer drugs are being monitored, in Japan the number is as high as 51.

"Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge Governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances," says Hamid Ghodse, President of the Board.

Corruption undermines the fight against drug trafficking

Corruption is one of the underlying factors that makes drug trafficking possible. The vast profits generated in the drug markets often exceed the financial resources of state institutions. Criminal organizations with drug trafficking empires have in some cases become political forces with the power and authority of legitimate institutions. The very authorities established to control and repress drug trafficking are then themselves compromised by corruption. Police and justice officials often face tremendous pressure from organized crime when working to stop drug trafficking. Preventing corruption must be a higher priority, INCB says.

Medicines must be available for all

On the other hand, licit drugs needed for medical treatment are not readily available in all parts of the world. More than 80 per cent of the world's population has no or insufficient access to pain relief drugs and are suffering unnecessary pain because of it, according to a special supplement to the INCB Report. While Western countries consume 90 per cent of the medicines on the market, many countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas have very little or no access to drugs for medical purposes. Barriers include lack of education of health professionals, regulatory constraints, difficulties in distribution, and the absence of a comprehensive health policy that includes pain treatment. The Board urges Governments to take action, for example, to collect statistical data on licit drug requirements, adapt legislation and improve education and training.


Drug trafficking organizations based in Mexico dominate the market for cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in the US. In 2009, an increase in the abuse of all drugs except cocaine was reported in the United States. In Mexico drug trafficking organizations responded with unprecedented violence to vigorous law enforcement measures by the Government to disrupt trafficking operations. Since 2006, more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug-related incidents in the country.

In 2009, the total area under coca bush cultivation in South America decreased for a second consecutive year, due to a significant reduction of that area in Colombia. While the market for cocaine has decreased in North America (about 40 per cent market share), it continues to grow in Europe (30 per cent).

The abuse of cocaine is spreading from Western Europe into other parts of the region. In some countries, cocaine may be replacing amphetamine and ecstasy as a drug of abuse, for example in Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Western Europe is the world's largest market for heroin, with approximately 60 per cent of regional consumption being accounted for by four countries (United Kingdom, Italy, France and Germany). European countries consume almost half of the heroin worldwide. The Russian Federation has the highest level of opiate abuse (1.6 per cent) in Europe. Almost all heroin available in Europe originates from Afghanistan.

Heroin continues to be the primary drug of abuse in China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Viet Nam, with most countries in the region reporting declining or stable trends in heroin abuse. South Asia has become one of the main regions used by drug traffickers to obtain the chemicals needed to produce synthetic drugs.

Opium production was almost cut in half in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries in 2010 compared to 2009. The sharp decline to now 3,600 tons was mainly due to a fungus affecting the poppy plants. The fact that illicit opium production decreased in 2010 does not mean that there will be a decline in heroin manufacture on the illicit market, as sufficient stocks of opium are available.

The Report states that cocaine smuggling through Africa to Europe is on the rise again. After a decline in cocaine trafficking in the region in the past two years, trafficking has resumed as indicated by several large-scale seizures in 2010.

A serious danger posed by cocaine is its enormous value relative to the size of the local economies. Traffickers have the resources to bribe officials to protect their operations.

Related information

International Narcotics Control Board 2010 Anual Report ( Spanish and English)

Availability of Internationally Controlled Drugs: Ensuring Adequate Access for Medical and Scientific Purposes ( English and Spanish)

Global Press Kit 2010 ( Spanish, English, Portuguese)

References to Argentina  ( Spanish)

References to Brasil ( Portuguese)

References to Chile ( Spanish)

References toa Paraguay ( Spanish)

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