An international watchdog group warned federal governments to increase their efforts to crack down on so-called designer drugs. The International Narcotics Control Board released its annual report in March and stated that governments need to monitor abuse trends and make new substances illegal as soon as possible.
“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,” said Hamid Ghodse, the board’s president.
Designer drugs are easily made by changing the molecular structure of illegal substances to create a new product with a similar effect. One such designer drug is the party drug mephedrone, sometimes also known as “meow meow,” whose results are reported to be comparable to cocaine, amphetamine and ecstasy. Europe is currently monitoring 16 new drugs for abuse potential. Japan recently placed 51 drugs under national control, according to the report.
“They can be easily manufactured, as instructions on their manufacture and a description of their pharmacological effects are often found on the Internet,” the report said, adding governments should consider making groups of substances illegal at a time to slow the process of finding replacements for them.
The United States is still a prime destination for shipments of illegal drugs, according to the report. The U.S. saw an increase in the abuse of all drugs except for cocaine in 2009 and an increase in the illegal distribution of prescription medications. According to government data, so-called pain clinics in some states dispense or prescribe large amounts of prescription opioids to people with no need for them. The large profits produced by the illegal drug trade allow criminal groups to engage in large-scale corruption that includes paying off police to let them operate more freely, the report found. This can influence the credibility and competence of a country’s criminal justice system and weaken the rule of law. It also can undermine international cooperation to crack down on drugs. A prime example of this is seen in Mexico where corruption continues to block efforts to fight drug trafficking. Africa has seen an increase in all types of drug abuse, meanwhile east and Southeast Asia saw an increase in trafficking, production and abuse of synthetic drugs.