New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) “threaten the health and Welfare of Mankind.”
“The threat of synthetic drugs is one of the most significant drug problems worldwide,” according to the Global SMART update, Volume 10, September 2013 issue.
Global SMART update is a bi-annual publication of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which is designed to provide regular brief reporting on emerging patterns and trends of the global synthetic drug situation which “threatens the health and welfare of mankind.”
The UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted the urgency of responding to this trend: “The adverse effects of NPS are poorly understood and present a global health risk. Concerted action is urgently needed by the international community to prevent the manufacture, trafficking and abuse of these drugs. “
Over the past 12 months, the number of NPS reported to the UNODC rose by 41 per cent, from 251 to 354, while countries reporting detection of these substances climbed from 70 to 90.
The UNODC Global Synthetics Monitoring, Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programm enhances the capacity of Member States in priority regions to generate, manage, analyze, report and use synthetic drug information to design effective policy and program interventions and monitor the availability of precursor chemicals required to manufacture illicit synthetic drugs.
The Global Smart Update reports various synthetic drug information, such as significant or unusual drug or precursor seizures, new locations, methods and chemicals used for clandestine manufacture, new trafficking groups or routes, changes in legislation to address the problem of synthetic drugs, emerging substances or user groups, and health implications related to their use.
The most current issue, volume 10, includes a special segment providing a brief overview of the mechanisms provided under the international drug control conventions to place NPS under international control, in addition to an overview of some legislative/regulatory approaches that have been taken so far to regulate NPS at the regional and national levels.
The Global SMART update also addresses national legislative and law enforcement efforts in several major regions.
Project Synergy: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other U.S. law enforcement agencies have announced the results of the largest-ever operation targeting synthetic drugs. The operation resulted in the seizure of 9,945 kg of synthetic drugs, including 299 kg of synthetic cathinones, 1,252 kg of synthetic cannabinoids and 783 kg of plant-based substances. The operation started in December 2012 and was conducted in 35 states, 49 cities and 5 countries (Australia, Barbados, Canada, Panama and the United States). Retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers were targeted and as a result, more than 227 arrests were made and over $51 million (USD) were seized.
Legislative and regulatory responses to control NPS by reporting nations are outlined in the report, including individual listing systems, analogue and generic legislation, temporary bans and rapid procedures.
Although Individual countries or specific regions in the world have advanced efforts to regulate the unauthorized supply and distribution of NPS, either as individual or groups of substances, a comprehensive international response is needed to counter this phenomenon that threatens the health and welfare of mankind, whose protection serve as the basis of the international drug control.
There is currently no international legal response to counteract this phenomenon.
In the first of it’s kind, the UNODC Early Warning Advisory on NPS enables countries to share data quickly when these substances enter the international market. This initiative to monitor NPS at the global level was created to inform the 55 member countries of new psychoactive substances at the international level.
Also, following the G8 Roma-Lyon expert group in London in April 2013, the representatives of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, endorsed a statement of intent on collection and sharing of data on NPS, in which they commit themselves to develop comprehensive, coordinated and integrated approaches to the detection, analysis and identification of NPS. Information on prevalence and health risks associated with NPS, and on pharmacological data and related research on NPS, will be collected and shared.
The UNODC Early Warning Advisory is a great start. However, the global threat that NPS present calls for a rapid legal response on an international level and/or a complete overhaul of the current procedures of drug control.
To the Maximus Foundation (TTM) is calling for a shift in the paradigm of the structure of drug control procedures. NPS are offering new and unique challenges to our systems of drug control. ’Business as usual’ will never work within the realm of these new challenges as those in the illicit drug trade will always be one step ahead of us.
TTM submits that it is inevitable that we will be forced to change the burden of proof of health risks and dependency (or lack there of) from the government to the manufacturer and marketer by addressing the mislabeling issues that arise within the synthetic drug industry, and defining “synthetic drug product” as one that contains a control substance which is not regulated by the member nations or the 1971 Convention of Psychotropic Substances. We then must amend the control substance regulations to include general classes of chemicals that are currently not being used for any legitimate purpose other than research, which will require licensing.
In the ‘legal’ pharmaceutical drug market, all member nations have legislation and regulations which put the burden of proof of risk assessment on the manufacturer and marketer and labeling laws are strictly enforced. Why would we allow anyone the ability to sell drugs/chemicals on the open market without regulation of those chemicals? In Illinois, HB 5233 makes it illegal to market chemicals/drugs which are defined as controlled substances and not unregulated by the FDA. TTM is calling for similar federal legislation.
In the interim, before effective measures are put in place, most member nations already have federal regulations in place to effectively address the issue of unregulated, mislabeled, and deceptive products, as well as legislation that deals specifically with toxic, hazardous, and poisonous synthetic research chemicals (Farmer, Cindy, 2013)
It is inevitable that we will eventually be forced to shift our paradigm for drug control toward a system where the manufacture and marketing of nearly all new research chemicals will not be an inherent right of our citizens. Until then, the “health and welfare of mankind will be threatened.
To those of us that have lost children or are suffering through the devastation of mental and physical injuries to our loved ones due to NPS, the response on both the national and global level has been painfully slow.
The “health and welfare of mankind” is dependent on our leaders to act expeditiously and aggressively in applying the measures of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances. It is their responsibility. Many lives are depending on them.