An international effort is underway to identify and ban new synthetic drugs earlier, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.
Last month, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), which is affiliated with the United Nations (UN), called synthetic drugs “a growing threat to public health, as seen by increased emergency room admissions and calls to poison centers.”
The INCB called on nations to prevent the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these substances. “In recent years, there has been an unprecedented surge in the abuse of new psychoactive substances,” INCB President Raymond Yans said in a statement.
“In Europe alone almost one new substance is appearing every week. Previously, between 2000 and 2005 there were an average of five notifications of new substances per year. Clear action must be taken now by governments to prevent and deal with the abuse of these so-called ‘legal highs’ which are already a threat to public health and pose a significant challenge to public health systems.”
After INCB released a list of more than 1,000 compounds that have entered the market in the last five years, 55 countries voted to create an international warning system that will be coordinated through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The system will allow countries to quickly share data when investigators first learn about compounds, such as in online chat rooms.
By sharing information, countries with sophisticated labs, such as the United States, can help countries without such facilities to ban compounds more quickly.
Yans noted synthetic drugs are sold online from countries where they are legal to nations where they are illegal. China is the main source of chemical compounds used in these drugs, he said. Most of the ingredients are legal there, he added. U.S. officials, after four years of urging China to ban these substances, have only been able to get the country to ban mephedrone, which is marketed in the United States as bath salts.