Trends point to continued expansion of synthetic drug market in the East and Southeast Asia

Beijing (China), 25 September 2015
- Synthetic drug markets in East and Southeast Asia are rapidly increasing, with the region accounting for the largest methamphetamine seizures reported worldwide in 2013. Preliminary data for 2014, and several multi-hundred kilogram seizures reported this year, might indicate continuous expansion of methamphetamine markets in the region. In the midst of these pressing threats, UNODC's Global SMART Programme and the National Narcotic Control Commission (NNCC) of China jointly organized the 7th Regional SMART Workshop in Beijing, China. Several senior-level policy, law enforcement and justice delegates from countries in East and Southeast Asia as well as international organizations, including World Health Organization (WHO) and World Customs Organization (WCO) contributed to discussions.

"Over the past two decades, the use of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) has been one of the most significant drug problems worldwide" Mr. Wei Xiaojun, Deputy Secretary-General, National Narcotics Control Commission (NNCC) said. "The manufacture, trafficking and use of ATS pose a growing human security threat in East and Southeast Asia which recently has been exacerbated by the emergence of new psychoactive substance (NPS) on drug markets".

At the opening remarks, UNODC Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Mr. Jeremy Douglas, encouraged countries in the region to continue their efforts to address challenges related to synthetic drugs. "Despite the efforts of all the participating agencies in the room today, illicit drug trafficking, in particular synthetic drugs, and associated organized crime, does not appear to let-up". He further stated that the dark-side of the rapid regional integration. "The launch of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015 will bring freer flows of goods, services, labour and money but they will also facilitate trafficking of various illicit goods not to mention synthetic drugs and related precursor chemicals." He concluded his remarks by requesting countries to work together to develop evidence based policy and operational responses at both a regional level and at national levels based on improved data collection, analysis, sharing and reporting.

Mr. Tun Nay Soe, Programme Coordinator for the Global SMART Programme (East Asia) highlighted some the current challenges of synthetic drugs and related precursor chemicals in the region. "Though seizure data points towards the rapid and continuous expansion of the regional synthetic drugs market, significant limitations in the availability of data related to synthetic drug use among most countries hinders our ability to clearly understand the regional synthetic drug situation".

Several countries raised concerns over limitations in their drug forensic capabilities. "An increasing number and availability of synthetic drugs, including new psychoactive substances (NPS), has been reported in East and Southeast Asia but our laboratories do not have the capability and equipment to identify those substances" said Mr.Dalin Soudachan, Acting Director of Research and Data Collection Division, Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision (LCDC).

A wide range of issues related to NPS were discussed during the meeting, including the recent patters and trends of ketamine production, use and trafficking affecting countries in the region. In addition, new trends in synthetic drug markets, such as the trafficking of synthetic drugs facilitated by the Internet, and use of unscheduled chemicals to produce synthetic drugs were also discussed during the workshop.

The SMART Regional Workshop has been organized by the UNODC Global SMART Programme annually to support Member States in the region to share data and information on recent developments of synthetic drug markets in the region.