Latest news on synthetic drugs - June 2018

June 2018 – Cambodia: Largest methamphetamine seizure reported

Cambodian authorities announced that they had seized nearly 120 kg of crystalline methamphetamine, the largest amount ever reported from the country and larger than the total amount seized in the country in 2017. The drug was seized at Tranpaing Kreal International border check point on the Cambodia and Lao PDR border, located in Stung T reng province. The drug was found in Three people were arrested at the scene. The embarkation point of the drug is unknown.

Photo copyright ©: Khmer Times

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June 2018 – UNODC: While seizure amounts of synthetic NPS fall, seizures of plant-based NPS reach a record high

Quantities of synthetic cannabinoids and ketamine have dominated global seizures of synthetic NPS since 2012. The number of countries reporting seizures of synthetic cannabinoids has been relatively stable, but the quantities reported have declined sharply since 2014. However, in 2016, seizures of plant-based NPS surged. Some 500 tons of kratom were intercepted during 2016, triple the amount of the previous year, suggesting a boom in its popularity. Moreover, between 2012 and 2016, more than 700 tons of khat were seized by 35 countries. Although khat is not under international control, many national jurisdictions do not allow the import of khat leaves. Significant khat seizures are reported to UNODC each year, mainly by authorities of countries outside the areas of traditional use.

Figure 1. Annual quantities of new psychoactive substances seized globally, 2012 to 2016

Source: UNODC, responses to the annual report questionnaire, 2012–2016.
Note: Figures include ketamine and plant-based NPS.
For more information, please see:
UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


June 2018 – UNODC: An abating innovation hype for NPS?

The NPS market continues to be dynamic as new substances emerge but a slower rate than in previous years. Some substances have established themselves on the drug market whilst others have disappeared after a short while. In 2016, 72 NPS were reported for the first time, a much smaller number than in 2015 (137 NPS). About 70 of the 130 NPS reported at the start of UNODC global monitoring in 2009 have since been reported every year to date. 60 NPS have not been reported since 2013 and may have disappeared from the market, although this is difficult to determine given the complexity of NPS identification in many parts of the world.

Source: UNODC, World Drug Report 2018.
For more information, please see:
UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


June 2018 – UNODC: Stimulant NPS constitute the largest NPS group, but synthetic opioids are growing

Grouped by their main pharmacological effect, the largest portion of NPS reported since UNODC monitoring began are stimulants, followed by synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists and classic hallucinogens. Smaller effect groups such as opioids, dissociatives and sedatives/hypnotics have grown over the past few years, in proportional terms, at the expense of synthetic cannabinoids and classic hallucinogens. The number of NPS in each group and their growth does not necessarily indicate their scope of use and/or magnitude of threat to public health. This is demonstrated by NPS with opioid effects, which, albeit small in number, have been associated with a growing number of often fatal overdose events in recent years.

Figure 1. Proportion of new psychoactive substances, by psychoactive effect group, December 2017

Source: UNODC, early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Note: The analysis of the pharmacological effects comprises NPS registered up to December 2017. Plant-based substances were excluded from the analysis as they usually contain a large number of different substances, some of which may not have been known and whose effects and interactions are not fully understood.
For more information, please see:
UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3


June 2018 – UNODC: UNODC World Drug Report 2018: The range of NPS has never been greater

The range of psychoactive substances available on the market has probably never been greater. Close to 500 NPS were available on the global market in 2016. Among all NPS reported to UNODC by the end of 2017, synthetic cannabinoids constitute the largest category in terms of the number of different substances reported (251 substances), followed by the categories of “other substances” (155), synthetic cathinones (148) and phenethylamines (136). Only a comparatively small number of tryptamines, piperazines, aminoindanes and plant-based NPS are reported annually. The category of “other substances”, which includes structurally diverse substances, has grown considerably, especially since 2014, totalling 155 substances by the end of 2017. This category includes NPS-derivatives of prescription medicines, including fentanyl analogues and derivatives of benzodiazepine.

Figure 1. Number of new psychoactive substances reported annually, 2009–2016

Source: UNODC, early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances.

For more information, please see:

UNODC World Drug Report 2018 – Booklet 3