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):
- Governments need to act to address drug-related corruption – for example, by rotating personnel and creating greater transparency for hiring and review.
- Pain medication and psychotropic drugs are unavailable to most of the world, but should be available to all who need them. “Ninety per cent of the licit drugs are consumed by ten per cent of the world's population in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some European countries,” said INCB president Hamid Ghodse.
- Governments and pharmaceutical makers need to do more to limit the use of legal drugs to commit sexual assault, robbery, and ownership-fraud.
- The INCB said governments needed to remain vigilant and act to control precursor chemicals used by makers of illegal drugs.
- While not a “to-do,” exactly, the INCB also issued a very brief summary of the regional highlights with regard to drug use, abuse, and trafficking worldwide.