UN warns of alarming synthetic drugs problem
New synthetic drugs are increasing in number and exploiting legal loopholes, says UN report.
BERLIN (AA) – The United Nations has warned that synthetic drugs have become a serious threat to public health with surge of new substances around the world.
“New psychoactive substances continued to emerge in increasingly high numbers over the past year,” Werner Sipp, president of the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in Berlin on Wednesday.
“In 2015, member states reported 602 unique substances, a 55-percent increase in relation to October 2014,” he told a news conference on the INCB’s annual report.
New psychoactive substances, or NPSs, have become widespread in recent years, as manufacturers benefited from legal loopholes.
NPSs encompass synthetic drugs as well as plant-based substances. But unlike traditional illicit drugs, they have are easily marketed around the world, as their ingredients have not been restricted by international drug control conventions.
Sipp said continued diversification in illicit drug manufacture and new tactics employed by manufacturers made it much more difficult to tackle the problem.
“The key challenge for the international drug control system remains to find flexible and practical approaches to keep these substances away from the consumer market,” he said.
According to the INCB’s report, more than 600 websites are selling new psychoactive substances in Europe.
Sipp said Europe remained a key market for locally produced drugs as well as narcotics smuggled from other regions, including Latin America, West Asia and North Africa.
“Synthetic drugs manufactured in Western and Central Europe [are] supplied in illicit markets both in that region and in other parts of the world,” he noted.
Nearly a quarter of the adult population in European Union countries has tried illicit drugs at least once in their lives, according to the report.
- Refugees become more vulnerable
The UN’s report underlined that refugees fleeing conflict zones in Syria and Iraq are at greater risk of drug addiction.
“The difficult and traumatic situation of refugees escaping conflict zones, in particular in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, makes them especially vulnerable to addiction and puts them at high risk of exposure to drug trafficking,” the report said.
“Poor border controls and the increased movement of people across borders contribute to a situation favorable to illicit drug trafficking to markets in the region. This in turn can lead to a greater number of individuals affected by drug abuse,” the report concluded.
Sipp expressed grave concern on the situation in Syria.
“We know that there are things going on, for instance trafficking of certain substances, coming to Syria and going through Syria,” he said.
Sipp noted that the INCB has sent a letter to the Syrian government, and asked them to pay attention to these developments.
“It is evident that there is certainly big problem in this country, and in the whole region, to maintain an adequate control of narcotic drugs and substances, and also NPSs,” he stressed