Commission on Narcotic Drugs takes decisive step to help prevent deadly fentanyl overdoses


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs gathers about 1,500 delegates, representing member states, intergovernmental organizations and civil society for a discussion on the world drug problem. Photo: ONU

17 March 2017 - By scheduling two fentanyl precursors and a fentanyl analogue, the  Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) is sending a clear message that it can help protect people's health and respond to the urgent needs of states, the Chair of 60th Session of the CND, Ambassador Bente Angell-Hansen said today. 

"This was a crucial decision by the Commission, and it is proof that the CND can respond quickly when a crisis involving people's lives has to be addressed," said Ms. Angell-Hansen. 

Based on research in UNODC's recently released  Global Smart Report, fentanyl and its analogues have contributed to more than 5,000 overdose deaths in North America since 2013. Deaths have also been recorded in European Union Member States, including Finland, Germany, Greece and the United Kingdom; and in Australia, Algeria and Morocco.   

The Chief of the Laboratory and Scientific Section at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Justice Tettey, said: "Fentanyl is a good medicine, but a bad drug. It has excellent pain relieving properties, but is liable to abuse and can rapidly lead to dependency."   

Fentanyl is an extremely powerful opioid analgesic 100 times more powerful than morphine, but some fentanyl analogues, which are designed to mimic the pharmacological effects of the original drug, may be as much as 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Its abuse can prove fatal. Fentanyl itself was brought under international control (scheduled) in 1964. 

The 60th Session of the CND has scheduled two precursors of fentanyl under international control, 4-anilino-N-phenethylpiperidine (ANPP) and N-phenethyl-4-piperidone (NPP) listed in Table I of the 1988 Convention. Also scheduled is butyrfentanyl, a potentially deadly fentanyl analogue. 

Scheduling substances enables greater control and monitoring of the necessary precursor chemicals ensuring a concerted international approach built on the close cooperation of all the parties to the international drug control conventions. It unifies action and replaces the patchwork of different local approaches to the problem. 

For example, the authorities must be contacted if unusual orders or transactions that might allow the precursor chemicals to be diverted for the illicit manufacturing of narcotics are detected. 

After the Commission's decision, Ms. Angell-Hansen said: "The primary goal of the international drug control conventions is to protect the health and welfare of human kind. This is why it was so important to get those precursors and the analogue under international control." 

Decisions on scheduling were made at a hearing during the 60th Session of the CND and are based on recommendations made by the designated expert bodies, the  International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the World Health Organization (WHO), under the relevant international drug control conventions. Aside from those mentioned, nine other substances were scheduled in accordance with the relevant international drug control conventions.  

Further Information: 

Global SMART Update 17: Fentanyl and its analogues - 50 years on 

60th Commission on Narcotic Drugs 

Scheduling procedures

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