Global synthetic drugs assessment

Global synthetic drugs assessment

Amphetamine-type stimulants and new psychoactive substances You do not have access to this content

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28 May 2014
9789210566971 (PDF)

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The 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment provides a global and regional analysis of the synthetic drugs market which includes both Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). An increase in methamphetamine trafficking has been observed in many regions and a growing range of NPS has become more widely available globally. This report aims to provide an improved understanding of the problem based on scientific evidence and information provided by Member States.
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  • Acknowledgements
    The 2014 Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment was prepared by the UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Section under the supervision of its Chief, Justice Tettey.
  • General abbreviations
  • Chemical abbreviations
  • Explanatory notes
    The designations employed and the presentation of the material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. Countries and areas are referred to by the names that were in official use at the time the relevant data were collected.
  • Global overview
    This report provides an analysis of the global synthetic drugs market and for this purpose includes both Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) and New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). The expansion of global ATS markets is of increasing concern, conveyed by the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem. This report aims to provide an improved understanding of the problem based on scientific evidence and experiences that show the complex interplay between the demand for and the supply of ATS in different contexts. Previous reports have focused on ATS, but given the growing presence of NPS on illicit drug markets, this report takes a more comprehensive view of the situation. Plant-based psychoactive substances, such as khat, have also been included in discussions on emerging NPS, as these have become of increasing concern in certain regions.
  • Africa regional overview
    In the last few years, ATS use and production has extended beyond South Africa, primarily to West Africa. However, South Africa continues to report the largest number of dismantled ATS laboratories in Africa. In terms of trafficking, methamphetamine is increasingly being smuggled from West Africa to other parts of Africa as well as to East and South-East Asia, which is a growing market for methamphetamine. East Africa appears to be used for diverting ATS precursor chemicals and it is emerging as an ATS transit trafficking hub. Data on NPS use and trafficking remains limited, but the traditionally used psychoactive substance, khat, is highly prevalent in some African countries. More recently, the non-medical use of prescription medicines, such as tramadol, a synthetic opioid pain-killer not under international control, has been reported in Egypt.
  • East and South-East Asia, Oceania and the Pacific
    Methamphetamine continues to dominate the ATS market in East and South-East Asia, Oceania and the Pacific. ATS seizures in the region have annually increased from about 13 tons in 2008 to just under 40 tons in 2012. The rapid rise of ATS seizures over the years is primarily attributable to the increase of methamphetamine seizures which about tripled from less than 12 tons in 2008 to 36 tons in 2012. Having increased from about 0.1 tons in 2008 to 2.3 tons in 2011, amphetamine seizures in the region have dropped again to less than 0.2 tons in 2012. Seizures of "ecstasy" have also fluctuated over the years, but have more than tripled in 2012 to 1.9 tons. However, both amphetamine and “ecstasy” seizures in the region have remained at relatively low levels, whilst methamphetamine seizures have annually made up more than 90 per cent of total ATS seizures for a number of years.
  • Europe Regional Overview
    Amphetamine continues to be the most commonly available synthetic stimulant in Europe, followed by “ecstasy” and methamphetamine. Since 2008, amphetamine seizures have annually made up more than 65 per cent of ATS seizures, whilst “ecstasy” seizures have had an annual share of less than 22 per cent and methamphetamine seizures have annually remained below 13 per cent. Particularly, large amounts of amphetamine were seized in 2008 and in 2009, when amphetamine seizures made up about 80-85 per cent of ATS seizures in Europe.
  • Middle East regional overview
    For a number of years, there has been a large and growing amphetamine market in the Middle East, driven particularly by the Gulf countries. Seizure data indicate an expanding ATS market in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Syrian Arab Republic. Reports of ATS manufacture in the Middle East suggest that ATS is being supplied by countries in the region. However, it remains difficult to assess the full extent of the demand for ATS in the region, due to a severe lack of data. Though “ecstasy” makes up a small fraction of the regional ATS market, use and seizure data in some countries suggest that there is a growing demand for these drugs as well.
  • North America regional overview
    For some years, North America has had a large and growing ATS market. Particularly methamphetamine manufacture in Mexico and the United States appears to have risen significantly and according to the United States, increasing amounts are being smuggled to the country from Mexico. Nevertheless, methamphetamine use has so far remained at relatively low and stable levels across the region. High levels of “ecstasy” use have been reported in Canada, though seizures of the substance and MDMA manufacture have dropped. Therefore, widespread “ecstasy” use in the country may instead point to an increased use of various NPS which are often found in seized tablets sold as “ecstasy”. NPS are generally widely used in the United States and Canada and there have been a rising number of reports of synthetic cannabinoids in these countries.
  • South America, Central America and the Caribbean regional overview
    Cannabis and cocaine continue to dominate the drug market and law enforcement efforts in South America, Central America and the Caribbean, so that comparatively little data is available with regards to ATS in the region. Although ATS use among the general population remains at low levels, some countries, including Bolivia, Honduras, Costa Rica and Jamaica, have reported high levels of use among youths, sometimes even exceeding cannabis and/or cocaine use. Nevertheless, ATS continues to make up a small share of the regional drug market. In recent years, “ecstasy” has become the main ATS used in some South American countries and people treated for “ecstasy” use make up a large share of the total number treated for ATS use in the region, at about 63 per cent in Argentina and 53 per cent in Colombia. There have been several reports of ATS manufacture, particularly in Central American countries, and there are indications that these substances are being trafficked to Western Europe and Eastern Asia. NPS are becoming a growing threat in the region, as these are sometimes being sold as “ecstasy” tablets or “LSD” on the illicit drug market.
  • Western and Central Asia regional overview
    Methamphetamine continues to be the most commonly available ATS in Western and Central Asia, though use and seizure data for the region still remains scarce. Overall, levels of methamphetamine use in the region are low, but a surge in methamphetamine seizures in the Islamic Republic of Iran point to a possible increasing domestic market. Over the years, some ATS laboratories have been dismantled in Central Asia and there are concerns regarding the spread of manufacture to Afghanistan. Methamphetamine trafficking from the Islamic Republic of Iran to East and South-East Asia also appears to have spread to Europe.
  • Precursor trends and manufacturing method
    Amphetamine-type-stimulants (ATS) comprise a number of substances under international control, primarily amphetamine, methamphetamine, ecstasy-group substances (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), 3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA), 3,4-methylenedioxyethylamphetamine (MDE)) and methcathinone. There are numerous methods for the synthesis/manufacture of these substances and a wide range of precursor chemicals can be used. However, it is possible to identify the most commonly used chemicals which are listed in Table I and Table II of the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
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