Latest news on synthetic drugs - February 2019

February 2019 – UNODC: Most new psychoactive substances are stimulants and synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, however opioids are on the rise

With 36 per cent, substances with stimulant effects constitute the largest proportion of new psychoactive substances (NPS) reported to UNODC until December 2018, followed by synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (30 per cent) and classic hallucinogens (15 per cent). While smaller effect groups such as dissociatives and sedatives/hypnotics are remaining stable at 3 per cent, the number of opioids almost doubled in the course of 2018 to reach 62 different opioids or 7 per cent of all substances registered in the system as of December 2018. The growing importance of synthetic opioids is also reflected in the current opioid crisis.

Five synthetic opioids were reviewed by WHO in 2018 and received a recommendation to be placed under international control – a decision the Commission on Narcotic Drugs may take at their upcoming meeting from 14 to 22 March 2019.

Figure 1: Proportion of new psychoactive substances, by psychoactive effect group, as of December 2018

Source: UNODC Early Warning Advisory on new psychoactive substances.
Note: The analysis of the pharmacological effects comprises NPS registered up to December 2018. 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’s response to the opioid crisis

UNODC Early Warning Advisory news on NPS of November 2018:


February 2019 – UNODC: Almost 900 NPS reported to UNODC from 119 countries and territories

New psychoactive substances (NPS) have become a global phenomenon with 119 countries and territories from all regions of the world having reported one or more NPS. From 2009 up to December 2018, 892 different substances have been reported to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory (EWA) on NPS by Governments, laboratories and partner organisations.

The global NPS market continues to be characterized by the emergence of large numbers of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups. Until 2015, the number of different NPS reported each year increased year on year but has since then shown signs of stabilization, albeit at a high level (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Number of different NPS reported each year, 2009-2017

Note: Plant-based substances are displayed in the graph, but their pharmacological effects are not included in the analysis as they usually contain a large number of different substances with various effects.