U.N. Says Designer Drugs a Global Threat

When it comes to controlling the harmful effects of drugs, governments worldwide have a long “to-do” list, according to a watchdog group at the United Nations.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has issued its annual report with a number of key recommendations for governments and manufacturers related to licit and illicit drugs.

One of the items on the list is ”designer drugs,” which the INCB said are “escalating out of control,” as Reuters reported March 2. Manufacturers of these drugs make small modifications to the molecular structure of contraband drugs. The new formula creates a legal drug with similar effects on users as the illegal drug. The drug-makers then post the new recipes on the internet.

To combat the problem, the INCB recommended that governments act to control the use of entire classes (PDF) of “structurally related synthetic compounds.”

“Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances,” said the INCB's president, Hamid Ghodse.

For example, mephedrone (otherwise known as 4-methyl-methcathinone) is the active ingredient in drugs that are then sold as “bath salt, plant food or research chemical[s] to avoid detection and legal proceedings,” the INCB said.

Mephedrone is now a “problem drug of abuse in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and in Australia and New Zealand.” When consumed, its effects are similar to cocaine, amphetamines, and ecstasy, and it has been linked to deaths in Europe.

The INCB said mephedrone was only one of many designer drugs, however. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction is monitoring 15 other drugs in the same class as mephedrone, and 51 drugs were “recently placed under control” in Japan.

The INCB made other recommendations in its Report of the International Control Board for 2010 as well (links in list are PDFs):

For more information, read the report online or download the PDF.

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