Latest news on synthetic drugs - July 2019

July 2019 – Australia: Increase in deaths attributed to synthetic opioids

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at the University of New South Wales Sidney released data on drug-induced deaths in Australia in 2017. Out of the 1,591 drug-induced deaths among Australians aged 15-64 in 2017, 1,072 were opioids-induced deaths, 232 of which involved synthetic opioids. Deaths induced by synthetic opioids have increased from 0.05 in 2004 to 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 in 2017, with rates being higher among males than females over that period.

The NDARC report states that there is little evidence of deaths involving fentanyl analogues occurring in large numbers in Australia, although there are single case studies of deaths and various efforts underway to detect these substances, including wastewater analyses and urine screening.

Figure 1: Rate of opioid-induced deaths per 100,000 people aged 15-64 for heroin, methadone, natural and semi-synthetic opioids (e.g. morphine, oxycodone) , opium, synthetic opioids (e.g. fentanyl, tramadol) and other opioids, 1997-2017

Source: Drug Trends 2019, NDARC.

Synthetic opioids include for example fentanyl and tramadol.

For more information please see:
Chrzanowska, A. et al., 2019. Trends in drug-induced deaths in Australia, 1997-2017. Sidney.
UNODC Opioid Strategy and United Nations Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs
UNODC – Global Smart Update 21, 2019: Understanding the global opioid crisis


July 2019 – UNODC: Executive Director inaugurates refurbished UNODC Laboratory

The UNODC Laboratory is celebrating its 40-year anniversary at the UN Headquarters in Vienna, Austria. For this occasion, the laboratory had been refurbished and was inaugurated on 3 July 2019 by UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. The UNODC Laboratory provides state-of-the-art scientific and forensic services to almost 300 laboratories in 80 countries and supports Member States in advancing health and justice responses to drug challenges and emerging threats, such as new psychoactive substances. Moreover, the Laboratory and Scientific Section has provided thousands of field test kits to Member States to safely handle and identify drugs even in the most remote locations around the world.

Justice Tettey, Chief of the Laboratory and Scientific Section, noted that through the laboratory, UNODC "has not only restored the vision of the General Assembly in supporting countries to deal with the drug problem, but gone further in helping to identify emerging threats and support countries in a timely manner to reduce the negative impact of these threats in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development."

Photos: UNODC.
For more information, please see:
UNODC Video on official opening
UNODC Webstory: Executive Director officially opens revamped UNODC Laboratory
UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Section