In July 2016, MDMB-CHMICA became the first synthetic cannabinoid to be risk-assessed by the EMCDDA after harmful effects (including around 30 deaths) related to its use were reported via the EWS.
This resulted in a decision in February 2017 to subject the substance to Europe-wide control measures (, which focuses on the problematic use of NPS among a range of demographic groups, including: opioid and amphetamine injectors; prisoners; the homeless; and men who have sex with men.
New drugs emerging at a slower pace, but overall availability still high New psychoactive substances (NPS/‘new drugs’) remain a considerable public health challenge in Europe.
Not covered by international drug controls, they include a broad range of synthetic substances, including cannabinoids, cathinones, opioids and benzodiazepines.
Rising overdose deaths, the continued availability of new psychoactive substances and the growing health threat of highly potent synthetic opioids are among the issues highlighted today by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) as it launches its ).
In its annual overview, the agency also explores: signs of rising cocaine availability; developments in cannabis policies; and substance use among school students.
We are seeing sales of these drugs becoming more clandestine, with transactions moving online or onto the illicit drug market, and we have witnessed the recent appearance of some highly potent substances, which have been linked to deaths and serious intoxications’.
With only small volumes needed to produce many thousands of street doses, new synthetic opioids are easy to conceal and transport, posing a challenge for drug control agencies and a potentially attractive commodity for organised crime.
They are found in various forms — mainly powders, tablets and capsules — with some now available as liquids and sold as nasal sprays. These exceptionally potent substances — some many times more potent than heroin — accounted for over 60% of the 600 seizures of new synthetic opioids reported in 2015.
Eight new fentanils were reported through the EWS for the first time in 2016 alone.
These substances pose a serious risk of intoxication, not only to users but also to those who may be accidentally exposed to these drugs (e.g.