Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy Launch (CND Special Event) 

  19 November 2021


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to address the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at this special event on synthetic drug challenges.

Just in the past few years, we have seen how the synthetic opioid crisis has accelerated and escalated in different regions, including in North America and parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

Just this week, the US National Center for Health Statistics reported that the number of overdose deaths in the country has exceeded 100,000 a year for the first time. The vast majority of deaths were caused by synthetic opioids.

Also this week, UNODC released a new research brief showing that methamphetamine manufacture in Afghanistan, using the wild ephedra plant as a precursor, has risen sharply. With regional and global demand high, further expansion of synthetic drug manufacture in the country is expected.

In East and Southeast Asia, meanwhile, synthetic drug markets have continued to expand, even as COVID has negatively impacted licit cross-border trade.

Global seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants rose by 64 per cent to record levels between 2018 and 2019, according to this year’s World Drug Report.

Methamphetamine seizures have risen ten-fold over the past decade. The number of new psychoactive substances has increased six-fold during the same period, and reached a record high of over 1,000 unique substances in 2020.

At the same time, only one in eight people with drug use disorders worldwide receive the treatment and services they need. Women are hurt most by inequality of access to healthcare. Young people remain at greatest risk from increasing drug dangers.

The synthetic drugs threat knows no borders. These substances can be manufactured anywhere, in clandestine labs that are difficult to detect, and with precursor chemicals that are easily obtained.

To tackle these challenges, countries need to be able to share information on rapidly evolving markets, harmonize drug control systems, and coordinate integrated health, social, and criminal justice responses.

To support these efforts, UNODC is launching the new Synthetic Drug Strategy.

The Strategy offers a balanced and comprehensive framework that is grounded in science.

It seeks to guide countries on the key elements for effective responses, and to build capacities, addressing four “spheres of action” – namely, multilateralism and international cooperation; early warning; science-informed health responses; and counter-narcotic interventions to disrupt trafficking.

Through collective action based on the Strategy, we will improve the evidence base; enhance preparedness; promote inter-agency cooperation; and increase the availability of tools and resources for comprehensive responses.

The new Strategy will build on the approach and achievements of the UNODC Opioid Strategy and the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, which brings together over 300 practical resources from UN specialized agencies.

The Toolkit addresses topics including forensics, postal security, access to medicines, legal approaches, cybercrime, treatment, and precursor control, and is being used in over 182 countries.

As with the Opioid Strategy, the Synthetic Drug Strategy will advance implementation through well-established flagship UNODC programmes, including:

Through implementation, we will also continue and further expand partnerships with UN entities and other agencies, including WHO, INCB and UPU, to promote coherence and coordination.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As the world has learned from the continuing COVID crisis, effective responses must be guided by science.

This is the time to take evidence-based action to stem the synthetic drug crisis. 

Today, we will hear from the chairs of the CND regional groups about the diverse challenges posed by synthetic drugs. I am grateful to the Ambassadors for their important contributions to our discussion.

Allow me to close by offering my warm thanks to Ambassador Krois for chairing this special event.

I invite all Member States to make use of the Synthetic Drug Strategy. UNODC relies on your collaboration and support for its implementation.

By paying attention to the science and investing in early warning, we can save lives, protect the health and sustainable development of our societies, and help to prevent the next crisis. Thank you.