Bangladesh: National Consultation calls for concerted multi-stakeholder efforts to counter challenges posed by synthetic drugs

Dhaka (Bangladesh), 19 Sep 2022: Over the last few years, the nature of the global drugs market, particularly that of synthetic drugs, continues to evolve. It has become more complex with the emergence of new psychoactive substances (NPS). Notwithstanding this, drugs such as methamphetamine continue to dominate the global illicit synthetic drug market in terms of volume trafficked and users affected.

Global methamphetamine seizures have increased fifteen-fold in the period between 2008 and 2020 from 25 tons to 375 tons. The globalization of illicit synthetic drug market has also led to the emergence of new routes and manufacturing areas, reflecting collaborative arrangements between transnational organized criminal groups.

This development puts countries in South Asia at risk, both as supply and destination areas. The region has been identified as a major supplier of pharmaceutical ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, which is diverted and used in manufacturing methamphetamine in South-East Asia and West Africa. In recent years, South Asia has witnessed increasing flows of methamphetamine from South-East Asia, which heightens consumption and leads to negative health implications, a development which can already be observed in East and South-East Asia.

In this backdrop, UNODC —under the aegis of the global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) Programme—convened a two-day national consultation on Synthetic Drugs in Dhaka, in partnership with the Department of Narcotics Control, Government of Bangladesh. The consultation aimed at addressing challenges posed by synthetic drugs manufacturing, trafficking and use in Bangladesh, with focus on global and regional trends, forensic challenges and precursor control, among others. The consultation was attended by 36 senior officials from law enforcement agencies, drug treatment experts, forensic scientists and representatives from the civil society organisations in Bangladesh.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Md. Abdul Wahhab Bhuiyan, Director General of the Department of Narcotics Control, Government of Bangladesh, said,“Since the majority of the population is between 15-40 years of age, the Government of Bangladesh has focused on reaping the benefit of this demographic window of opportunity for social and economic development. However, drug use is an impediment, and therefore, we need concerted efforts to combat the threats of synthetic drugs. I thank UNODC for convening this technical consultation.”

Bangladesh is considered as a destination and transit country for illicit drugs – particularly methamphetamines locally known as ‘yaba’, smuggled through the porous Myanmar-Bangladesh border. There has been a sharp increase in the supply of, and demand for, synthetic drugs across East and Southeast Asia and in Bangladesh.

“Millions of methamphetamine pills continue to get trafficked from neighbouring Myanmar to Bangladesh for years. However, it is important to note that there has been a significant increase in supply of other synthetic drugs such as crystalline methamphetamine and ketamine from the Golden Triangle to neighbouring countries in recent years as well. The authorities here need to be vigilant about this worrying development.” said Mr. Tun Nay Soe, Interregional Coordinator of the Global SMART Programme.  

During the discussions, government experts, representatives from civil society and UNODC also discussed and explored capacity-building requirements related to generating and managing quality data and information, which are essential in countering the threats posed by synthetic drugs.

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 SDGs 3 and 16:

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