India: UNODC national consultation with law enforcement agencies calls for stronger cooperation to counter synthetic drugs

New Delhi, India/05 August 2022:  The synthetic drug problem has become grave in the recent years and has evolved into a significant human security threat in Asia. The expansion of the global synthetic drugs market, including amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and new psychoactive substances (NPS), including potent synthetic opioids, is becoming of increasing concern worldwide.

UNODC’s latest World Drug Report has listed a sharp rise in trafficking of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) which includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, “ecstasy”, prescription stimulants. In addition, the number of new psychoactive substances (NPS), including potent synthetic opioids, reported by Member States continue to increase and the number reached to 1124 as of December 2021 according to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory which has been assisting the Governments, laboratories and partner organizations in fighting this menace.

Located in close proximity of East and South-East Asia region, where a large synthetic drug market exists, South Asia is not immune to the threats posed by synthetic drug manufacturing, trafficking and use. In fact, several countries in South Asia are being targeted as destination for synthetic drugs like methamphetamine trafficked from neighboring East and South-East Asian and South-West Asia. Moreover, existence of chemical and pharmaceutical industries in several South Asia countries makes the region attractive for syndicates to source precursors and other chemicals used in manufacturing of synthetic drugs to neighboring regions where production exists.

In this backdrop, UNODC—under the aegis of the global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) Programme—convened a national consultation on Synthetic Drugs in New Delhi from 3-5 August 2022, with participation of senior officials from Indian law enforcement agencies. The three-day consultation focused on global and regional trends, forensic and clinical challenges and precursor control, among others. The program was attended by officials from the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, Central Revenues Control Laboratories, State Forensic Sciences Laboratories, National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre/AIIMS, Excise Department from Karnataka, and State Police Officers, as well as senior officials from police in different states of India. 

In her opening remarks, UNODC South Asia's Deputy Representative Dr Suruchi Pant highlighted the need for stronger cooperation and coordination to counter the drug problem. “Monitoring, information sharing, early warning and risk awareness are essential to respond to this situation. Besides law enforcement officers, the role of forensic scientists/experts and health professionals is of utmost importance in countering the problem posed by synthetic drugs,” she said.

Inaugurating the consultation, Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Mr. SN Pradhan called for a multi-pronged ‘whole of government’ approach in countering the drug problem, and emphasised the need to prevent drug use among young people. “The Government of India has empowered multiple agencies including the NCB and tooled them with potent legislation in the form of the NDPS Act and the Drugs & Cosmetic Acts. Further, following the issuance of NDPS (Regulation of Controlled Substances) Order in 2013, NCB has launched the ‘URN portal’ for mandatory registration of the user companies for Schedule ‘A’ substances that aims to regulate the offers for sale, mediate in sale / purchase of Schedule-A substances through website social media or any other manner.”

Mr. Pradhan added, “The role and contribution of UNODC in India’s fight against drug trafficking has been remarkable. UNODC had provided every possible support to us especially in the field of capacity building. This journey of cooperation and hand holding has been very significant - be it Computer Based Training modules or Global e earning modules on Drug Law Enforcement provided by UNODC to NCB, thousands of Drug Law Enforcement Officers of NCB and other DLEAs have been trained successfully by these initiatives.”

In November 2021, UNODC launched the Synthetic Drug Strategy as a framework to support countries in developing evidence and science-based responses to address this ongoing challenge. The strategy includes four spheres of action, namely, multilateralism and international cooperation, early warning on emerging synthetic drug threats, promoting science-informed health responses, and strengthening counternarcotic interventions. The evolving nature of the illicit synthetic drug market makes it essential for countries to put early warning mechanisms in place to keep abreast of new developments in the region and respond timely to emerging threats.

The event was organised under the aegis of the Global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) programme, with support from the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The Global SMART Programme improves the capacity of targeted Member States to generate, manage, analyse, report and use information on illicit synthetic drugs. The South Asia Global SMART chapter on capacity-building includes Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India.

This activity contributes to SDG 16:

(Supported by US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs)