Latest news on synthetic drugs - June 2017

June 2017 – Thailand: Large amounts of methamphetamine seized in Bangkok

On 27th June, 2017, law enforcement authorities of Thailand announced to have seized 1,718,000 methamphetamine tablets, known as ‘yaba’ , together with 296 kg of crystalline methamphetamine, and arrested four Thai nationals. The arrestees were suspected of trafficking drugs from the North to Bangkok for its market, and nearby provinces and the southern provinces of Thailand for onward trafficking to other countries.

 
Photo copyright ©: Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), Thailand
Source: ONCB, Thailand

For more information, please see:
http://bit.ly/2sooK7u (Thai)

 

June 2017 – Australia: The largest ephedrine seizure on record

1.4 tons of ephedrine, a major methamphetamine precursor chemical, were seized in Australia, the largest seizure of ephedrine on record. An investigation revealed that members of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang (OMCG) and other criminal groups were behind of this case. A total of 12 men were arrested, and a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory was also dismantled in relation to the case. It is estimated that the amount of seized ephedrine could produce more than 1 metric ton (mt) of methamphetamine.   


Photo copyright ©: Australian Federal Police (AFP)

For more information, please see:
https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/drug-supply-network-dismantled-after-more-tonne-border-controlled-drugs 

 

June 2017 – UNODC World Drug Report 2017: Use of synthetic cannabinoid products associated with severe health risks 

Synthetic cannabinoids are not simply synthetic versions of the substances occurring in herbal cannabis, as street names such as “synthetic cannabis” or “synthetic marijuana” may suggest. They are a diverse group of potent psychoactive compounds that are designed to mimic the desired effects of cannabis, of which there are also many new products on the market.

Recently, there has been growing recognition of the harm of intoxication that can result from synthetic cannabinoid use. The use of some products containing certain synthetic cannabinoids has been associated with severe adverse health events including hospitalisations and fatalities. Further intoxications and fatal cases associated with the use of synthetic cannabinoids so far might have remained undetected due to toxicological knowledge gaps, particularly of newly emerging substances, and the interaction between synthetic cannabinoids and other drugs.

Figure 1. Examples of chemical modifications leading to new synthetic cannabinoids

Source: UNODC, responses to annual report questionnaire, 2010-2015.
Note: Contains seizures in the form of herbal material, as well as powder and liquids.

For more information, please see:

UNODC “World Drug Report 2017”
http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

 

June 2017 – UNODC World Drug Report 2017: New psychoactive substances continue to evolve, diversify and grow

The new psychoactive substance (NPS) market continues to be very dynamic and is characterized by the emergence of large numbers of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups. Between 2009 and 2016, 106 countries and territories reported the emergence of 739 different NPS to UNODC. Marketed in many different ways and forms, new substances often emerge quickly and disappear again, while some become used regularly among a small group of users. Several countries have reported NPS being sold under the name of controlled drugs such as “LSD” and “ecstasy”. Often used for reasons similar to those for the use of traditional drugs, their easy availability and low prices have made certain NPS highly attractive to some groups of drug users. A market for some NPS in their own right now appears to have been established.

A core group of over 80 NPS were reported every year during the period 2009-2015 and appear to have become established on the global market; a number of them have been placed under international control. On the other hand, about 60 NPS seem to have disappeared from the market since 2013. Problems in identifying them in a laboratory may be a factor, however, in the low level of reporting of these lesser-known substances.
 
Figure 1. Number of different new psychoactive substances reported each year, 2009-2015

Source: UNODC, early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances.

 

For more information, please see:

UNODC “World Drug Report 2017”
http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

 

June 2017 – UNODC World Drug Report 2017: Opioid market in a constant state of change

The opioid market is becoming more diversified. This market comprises a combination of internationally controlled substances, particularly heroin, and prescription medicines that are either diverted from the legal market or produced as counterfeit medicines on a large scale. Some of these substances have remarkable pain-relieving properties and are widely used in human therapy; yet some are also liable to abuse and may produce dependence. The pills and powders containing synthetic opioids sold on the illicit market pose a threat to public health due to the variable quantity and potency of their active components, which in extreme cases, such as carfentanil, may be 10,000 times more potent than morphine. Such products can prove particularly dangerous when sold as street heroin or as counterfeit prescription drugs without the user’s knowledge. The emergence of highly toxic substances, as has been the case in the opioid market (e.g. the “fentanyl overdose crisis”), shows the need for increased regulation and monitoring.

Figure 1. Annual number of synthetic opioids reported to UNODC, 2012-2016

Source: UNODC early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Includes only synthetic opioids reported as NPS (i.e., with no current approved medical use). Data for 2016 are preliminary.

 

For more information, please see:

UNODC “World Drug Report 2017”
http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/

UNODC report on “Fentanyl and its analogues - 50 years on”
https://www.unodc.org/documents/scientific/Global_SMART_Update_17_web.pdf

 

June 2017 – UNODC World Drug Report 2017: Expanding market for synthetic drugs

Unlike the manufacture of heroin and cocaine, the manufacture of synthetic drugs is not geographically constrained, as the process does not involve the extraction of active constituents from plants that have to be cultivated in certain conditions for them to grow. Yet any analysis of the synthetic drugs market is complicated by the fact that information on synthetic drug manufacture is limited, which prevents the estimation of the volume of such drugs being manufactured worldwide.
Nevertheless, data on seizures and use suggest that the supply of synthetic drugs is expanding. An increasing number of countries are reporting seizures of synthetic new psychoactive substances (NPS), with over 20 tons seized in 2015. Seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) doubled in the five years prior to 2015, to reach 191 tons in 2015.

Figure 1. Annual amounts of synthetic new psychoactive substances seized globally, 2010-2015
 
Source: UNODC, responses to annual report questionnaire, 2010-2015.
Note: Figures exclude plant-based NPS and ketamine.
For more information, please see:

UNODC “World Drug Report 2017”
http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

 

June 2017 – UNODC World Drug Report 2017: Seizures in East and South-East Asia accounting for the highest percentage of global seizures of methamphetamine

Seizure data for the period 2010-2015 signalled a geographical shift, with 2015 seizures in East and South-East Asia accounting for the highest percentage of global seizures of methamphetamine and surpassing seizures in North America for the first time. The recent predominance of East and South-East Asia in global seizures is possibly the result of two trends: methamphetamine markets expanding in Asia more than they are elsewhere, and an improved capacity of law enforcement authorities to detect methamphetamine, which is now recognized as one of the major drug threats in the region.
Of particular note is the large increase in methamphetamine seizures in China, which reached 37 tons in 2015. Other countries in East and South-East Asia, such as Myanmar and Thailand, have also seen a steady increase in annual seizure quantities, although their seizure levels remain lower than those of China.

Figure 1. Quantities of methamphetamine seized worldwide, by region, 2010-2015

Source: UNODC, responses to annual report questionnaire, 2010-2015.

For more information, please see:

UNODC “World Drug Report 2017”
http://www.unodc.org/wdr2017/field/Booklet_4_ATSNPS.pdf

 

June 2017 – UNODC-SMART: Report on the "The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia" is launched

On 1st June 2017, the UNODC SMART Programme launched the report entitled "The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia" in Bangkok, Thailand. This report provides an overview of the trends and features of the market for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) and new psychoactive substances (NPS) in the East and South-East Asian region.

According to the findings of this report, the market for methamphetamine in particular continues to expand in the region with seizures of both forms of methamphetamine - tablets and crystalline - reaching record highs in 2015, with most countries noting an increasing use of the substance. Both the number and the scale of illicit methamphetamine manufacturing facilities continue to increase to meet the rapidly rising demand for methamphetamine in the region. In addition, various NPS have emerged in the region, which have added to the complexity and created new challenges.


Photo copyright ©: UNODC

For more information, please see:

UNODC report on “The Challenge of Synthetic Drugs in East and South-East Asia”
http://www.apaic.org/images/SMART-PDF/2017_The_Challenge_of_Synthetic_Drugs_in_East_and_SEA.pdf

Press release of the report launch
http://www.unodc.org/documents/southeastasiaandpacific//press-release/2017/Press_release_new_synthetic_drug_report_UNODC.pdf

UNODC web story of the report launch
http://www.unodc.org/southeastasiaandpacific/en/2017/06/new-synthetic-drugs-report-launch/story.html

 

June 2017 – UNODC: Special Event on implementing the scheduling decisions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Preceding the intersessional meeting, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) had organized a Special Event, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom and the UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Section (LSS) on implementing the scheduling decisions on new psychoactive substances (NPS) of the Commission. UNODC presented on the process taking place after the scheduling of substances and the role of the Laboratory and Scientific Section (LSS) in this regard, adding to the contributions made by representatives from the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).

Figure 1: Implementation of the scheduling decisions


Photo copyright ©: UNODC

For more information, please see:

Post-UNGASSS website – News on “6 June 2017 - Next intersessional meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and Special event on implementing the scheduling decisions of the CND”
http://www.unodc.org/postungass2016/

Presentation by Dr. Justice Tettey, Chief of LSS, on “Implementing the Scheduling Decisions of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs”
http://www.unodc.org/documents/postungass2016//follow-up/Special_Events/170606/UNODC_CND_June_6_Intersessional_LSS.pdf

Post-UNGASSS website with an overview of the special events and Intersessional meetings
http://www.unodc.org/postungass2016/en/follow-up-process.html#SpecialEvents

Programme of the special event on “Implementing the scheduling decisions of the CND”
http://www.unodc.org/documents/postungass2016//follow-up/Special_Events/170606/Flyer6JuneCNDSpecialEvent.jpg