UN: Hundreds of new synthetic psychoactive drugs flooding the globe

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Some 348 new synthetic drugs have popped up in over 90 countries around the world, according to a report released today by the United Nations' drug agency [PDF].. The report confirms that meth remains king, and its production is growing in places you might not expect--like West Africa.

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The agency also warns of the growth of "legal highs" referred to as "new psychoactive substances," or NPS:

Marketed - often wrongly - as 'legal highs' and 'designer drugs', NPS are proliferating but in the absence of an international framework, responses to the problem vary significantly from country to country. None of the 348 NPS reported globally in over 90 countries at the end of 2013 is currently under international control. However, in 2014, the United Kingdom requested the international control of mephedrone, a potentially fatal substance, under the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. The use of synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of cannabis, is soaring; the total number of these substances almost doubled from 60 in mid-2012 to 110 by 2013.

Synthetic drugs have gained in popularity among the young. In parts of South and Central America, ATS use in younger age groups sometimes even exceeds that of cannabis and/or cocaine. In North America and Europe, certain NPS are more widely used by young consumers than traditional illicit drugs.

A particularly worrying development is that NPS are no longer restricted to niche markets. Evidence from almost all regions of the world indicates that tablets sold as ecstasy or methamphetamine contain substances other than the touted active ingredients - increasingly, they comprise chemical cocktails that pose unforeseen public health challenges. Emergency services may therefore find themselves unable to identify life-threatening substances and powerless to administer the proper medical treatment.

A synopsis of the agency's findings is here.

Notable Replies

  1. At some point isn't the sane path forward legalizing the original substances? Marijuana doesn't cause traumatic brain injury . That poor kid should have been able to just smoke a joint if she wanted to experiment. Don't even get me started on bathsalt zombies. The Nixon era war on drugs needs to finally end.

  2. I hope someone is keeping track of how nasty cannabis derivative use declines as states legalize pot.

  3. The War on Drugs has failed on every measure imaginable, save one: funding.

  4. What total and utter dog shit. Why does the market have nasty substances floating around it? Because the law has made it so. You could kill the vast majority of drug abuse overnight. Step 1, allow recreational drugs. Step 2, test recreational drugs for safety and chemical addictiveness, ban the most vile, and (this is the really important step) allow the one's that are pose minimal risks, and cover them with safety labels that describe the real risks (if any). Step 3, watch as the war on drugs essentially ends and human suffering rapidly declines.

    Will some out there go do crystal meth over something that gets you high, cost loss, is safer, but doesn't fry you as badly? Probably, but they will be in the vast minority, in the same way most people don't go to bootleggers, but they still do technically exist. You would free police up to fight the truly nasty stuff and far more importantly, give illegal drugs competition.

    Illegal drugs exist in a world without competition from anything other than alcohol. If you want to go have a nice trip, there is literally no alternative to illegal drugs. The result is that illegal drugs, which are horribly overpriced, win out. The real cost of of a trip is a buck or two. The street cost for a serving of some harmless shrooms is something more like $30.

    Legalize recreational drugs so that people can test them and work on safe alternatives. Keep even mildly dangerous drugs legal so that people stop dying of impurities, which are, by far, the most common reason for drug deaths. Starve criminals of their funding. Watch as the world gets better.

    That, or go fight another worthless war on synthetic drugs. I bet you will totally win it this time.

  5. miasm says:

    Hey kids, remember when we continually lied to you about drugs? Well we promise we're not lying to you about anything else.

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