Vienna (Austria), 12 December 2022 – The last few years have seen a rapid increase in the affordability, availability and potency of synthetic drugs around the world. This has coincided with a global rise in the damaging health impacts and risks associated with use of these drugs.
In response, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Synthetic Drug Strategy has developed a framework to guide international, regional and national action to address this growing global problem.
On 6 December, representatives of the UNODC programmes that implement the strategy around the world, along with representatives from donor countries, Canada and the United States, gathered for a strategic directions meeting to reflect on the programmes’ impacts and articulate priority actions in the coming years.
Kicking off the event, Justice Tettey, chief of UNODC’s Drugs, Laboratory, and Scientific Services Branch, emphasized the importance of programmes sharing not only their successes but also their challenges, saying, “We need to be honest with ourselves and our partners if we want to address the global synthetic drugs problem.”
Highlighting the importance of the meeting, first secretary of Canada’s permanent mission to the UN in Vienna Paul Williams said, “The wider drug use trend from plant-based to lab-based drugs is hard to ignore.”
Similarly, Margaret Nardi of the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs noted that synthetic drugs are a global threat needing a global response. “Today’s meeting underscores the global extent of the synthetics challenge and the tools and responses available through the Synthetic Drug Strategy,” she told participants.
The meeting noted that so far, the strategy has achieved tangible impacts in a range of cross-cutting areas related to synthetic drugs including forensic science, criminal justice, cybercrime, sea and air trafficking, and maritime crime. It also comprised briefings that generated ideas for new collaborations and discussions on emerging threats, gaps and needs.
The meeting concluded with an open discussion on the needs and gaps in global responses and the priorities for future action that will guide the work of the Synthetic Drug Strategy in the coming years.
Among the needs highlighted were comprehensive guidance for the treatment and care of infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, and adopting national chemical disposal plans guided by scientific-based methods in order to safely dispose of seized drugs and chemicals, and thereby protect communities and the environment.