Designer drug abuse out of control: U.N. drugs board

LONDON Wed Mar 2, 2011 11:57am EST

Ecstasy tablets seized at the Belem International Airport in Belem, located at the mouth of the Amazon River, February 20, 2011. REUTERS/Paulo Santos

Ecstasy tablets seized at the Belem International Airport in Belem, located at the mouth of the Amazon River, February 20, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Paulo Santos

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LONDON (Reuters) - The problem of so-called "designer drugs" is running out of control in many regions of the world, the U.N. global drugs watchdog said Wednesday.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said detailed instructions for how to make designer drugs, which are slightly altered to bypass existing control systems, are often shared via the Internet.

The report said the problem was "escalating out of control" and "major efforts" were needed to counter it.

"Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances," Hamid Ghodse, the INCB's president, said at a briefing in London as the board's annual report was published.

To address the problem of designers quickly changing a single component of a drug to avoid bans, some governments have adopted measures to control entire groups of structurally related synthetic compounds, the INCB said, recommending that others follow suit.

The INCB's report cited the designer drug 4-methyl-methcathinone, known as "mephedrone," which it said is being abused in a growing number of countries and regions.

Designer drugs are often produced by slightly modifying the molecular structure of controlled drugs, making a new drug with similar effects which can elude national and international bans.

Mephedrone is available through the Internet and also through retail outlets known as "smart shops," sometimes advertised as bath salt, plant food or research chemical to avoid detection and legal proceedings.

The drug has effects similar to cocaine, amphetamine and MDMA, or "ecstasy." A number of reports of deaths from using it have been reported in recent years in Britain and Europe.

"Mephedrone has now become a problem drug of abuse in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and in Australia and New Zealand," the INCB report said.

It added that mephedrone was just "one example of a large number of designer drugs that are being abused."

In Europe alone there are 15 other designer cathinones -- the class of drugs that includes mephedrone -- currently being monitored by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, and in Japan 51 drugs have been recently placed under control.

The INCB called on governments to remain vigilant in monitoring trends in drug abuse and in identifying new drugs of abuse. "Bilateral and international cooperation is essential in sharing information on this cross-border phenomenon," it said.

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Comments (7)
offthefloor wrote:
And during prohibition thousands died of toxic entrepreneurial brews.

Cry me a river.

If we really wanted to save lives we would end this ridiculous unwinnable war on consciousness. Don’t you see how making something dangerous illegal only motivates
the creation of more dangerous substances. It is an endless cycle.

Prohibition has become big business from the law enforcement dollars to the prison industrial complex we are hooked on it.

Mar 02, 2011 7:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
5tudentT wrote:
Exactly. Legalize it, regulate it, tax it.

But what do we do with all the prisoners when the crime they were locked up for goes away? It won’t be fair to keep them behind bars for something every one else is now free to do. But if we let them go those profiting from the prison system will object strenuously to losing the illegal drug possession population–a quarter or more of the inmates.

These business owners will demand that we subsidize the prison system, paying for empty cells. Others will object. There will be moves to ’solve’ the problem by imposing prison sentences for other crimes, like speeding, so we can fill the cells again.

Our real problem is twofold–First, people who see prison as a solution for anything other than violent crime. Madoff, Lay, and company should be bussing tables to pay their debts back. Second, people who indiscriminately worship any and all forms of commerce, as if all transactions somehow benefitted us all.

Mar 02, 2011 11:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
Samdog_07 wrote:
Ah … In my many years struggling with this foe, never have I seen a more worthy opponent as International Law slain by — (gulp)– an organic chemistry problem.

Mar 02, 2011 4:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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