Latest news on synthetic drugs

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March 2019 – UNODC SMART: Synthetic drug data collection efforts strengthened in Timor Leste

Officers from different national authorities discuss measures to build a better national coordination mechanism

Responding to recent drug trends and the need for more reliable synthetic drug data, UNODC and the Government of Timor Leste conducted a workshop in support of data collection efforts last week in Dili. The efforts come in response to trends identified in the recent UNODC report, “Synthetic Drugs in East and Southeast Asia: Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and New Psychoactive Substances”, which pointed out that the increased production, trafficking and use of synthetic drugs, in particular methamphetamine, in East and Southeast Asia. While there has been no slowing down in the expansion of the regional methamphetamine market, the scarcity of data related to illicit drugs in Timor Leste has significant hindered efforts to accurately assess the extent of drug challenges in the country.  

Organized by the UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analysis, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme, the workshop brought together several national authorities relevant to illicit drugs to discuss measures to improve their data collection capacities and coordination at the national level.

"In recent years, there are strong indications that our country is being used, not only a transit country, but also a destination for synthetic drugs trafficked from neighbouring countries," said Deputy Administrative Commander of the National Police of Timor Leste (PNTL), Marteus Fernandes. "However, we have limited understanding of the national drug situation due to the absence of data and we know to address the rapidly changing situation we need to improve our capacity in this regard. We hope this workshop will be a starting point for Timor Leste authorities to review loopholes in our system and address the identified gaps."

During the workshop, participating national authorities discussed their roles, responsibilities, and challenges in generating, managing and sharing illicit drug related data. Among the issues raised by national authorities included limited resources and capability, as well as the absence of a standardised data collection format. In particular, several participants highlighted a need to establish a coordination mechanism among relevant national authorities. 

"We currently do not have a proper coordination mechanism with law enforcement authorities, in other words we’ve been working in a silo," said Augusto Tilman, Head of the International Relations Division of PNTL. "We need to have a national coordination mechanism composed of all the relevant national authorities and should exchange our information regularly to better respond to challenges posed by illicit drugs."

The workshop was successful in enhancing the understanding of national authorities on the importance of good data collection and close coordination at the national level. In addition, several participating authorities requested that UNODC support the development of data collection tools, and provide necessary training for data collection, management, and analysis, as well as equipment, to better detect illicit drugs and precursor chemicals.

Inter-regional Coordinator of UNODC SMART Programme, Tun Nay Soe, takes questions from the press

Tun Nay Soe, Interregional Coordinator of the UNODC Global SMART programme, highlighted the opportunities for Timor Leste to benefit from UNODC technical assistance activities. "It will take some time and resources to address the challenges identified during the workshop, but Global SMART will continue to work with the national counterparts to manage these challenges, taking into consideration our experiences and lessons learnt in other regions."

Launched in 2008, the UNODC Global SMART Programme aims to enhance the capacity of national authorities of Member States to generate, manage, analyse and report synthetic drug information and to apply this evidence-based knowledge to develop effective policy and programme responses.

Click here for information about the UNODC Global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) Programme

Click here to learn more about UNODC's regional work on drugs and precursors


March 2019 – UNODC SMART: Record levels of synthetic drugs seized as prices drop across Southeast Asia

Bangkok (Thailand), 11 March 2019 - A new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns that there has been a significant increase in methamphetamine production in Southeast Asia over the past year, leading to an oversupply of the drug in the region.

Released today, "Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia: Trends and Patterns of Amphetamine-type Stimulants and New Psychoactive Substances", the report covers major developments and challenges in the drug market in the region, which has been undergoing a profound change for the better part of a decade driven by increases in the production, trafficking and use of synthetic drugs.

For more information, please see:


March 2019 – UNODC SMART: Non-medical use of synthetic opioids has become a global concern, which calls for a coordinated global response - Global SMART Update Vol. 21

The current Global SMART Update Vol. 21 “Understanding the global opioid crisis” provides insight into the non-medical use of opioids, which presents a significant concern for public health, safety and law enforcement authorities worldwide. In the past years, the non-medical use of potent opioids such as fentanyl and its analogues have been reported mainly from North America, as well as from Asia, Europe and Oceania and have contributed to the unprecedented number of recent opioid overdose deaths. Moreover, particularly the non-medical use of tramadol, an opioid analgesic, continues to increase in parts of Africa and the Middle East with reported adverse health effects.

The rapidly emerging crisis which has resulted in significant harm to human health and welfare, including fatalities, calls for a coordinated, comprehensive and multidisciplinary response, which addresses public health and safety, and encompasses both demand and supply reduction initiatives, while promoting access and availability of opioids for medical and scientific purposes.

For more information, please see:

Global SMART Update Vol. 21 “Understanding the global opioid crisis”

UNODC Global Opioid Strategy


March 2019 – UNODC: Current NPS Threats, a new publication, presents highlights from the UNODC Toxicology Portal

The first volume of the new biannual Current NPS Threats was launched with data reported to the Toxicology Portal (Tox-Portal) of the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS. These data from post-mortem, clinical and other casework were reported by toxicology laboratories from 29 countries in all regions of the world and allowed to identify some key recent developments regarding health threats posed by NPS:
‒    Synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids and stimulants account for the majority of NPS reported to the Tox-Portal
‒     Synthetic cannabinoids, in particular remain harmful, persistent and prevalent with more reports in 2018 than synthetic opioids
‒    Poly-drug use continues to be a factor and an important consideration in NPS fatalities
‒    Benzodiazepine-type NPS feature highly in driving under the influence of drugs.