The UN drug control agency on Wednesday sounded the alarm on the spread of designer drugs, which are sold openly and legally and sometimes result in deadly highs, while reporting that global drug use generally remains stable.
Such substances “can be far more dangerous than traditional drugs”, the agency said in a statement accompanying its annual report. “Street names, such as ‘spice’, ‘meow-meow’ and ‘bath salts’ mislead young people into believing that they are indulging in low-risk fun”.
A six-page summary of the report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime warned that “the international drug control system is foundering, for the first time, under the speed and creativity” of their proliferation.
It said countries worldwide reported 251 such substances by mid-2012, compared with 166 at the end of 2009. The problem, said the report, is “hydra-headed” in that as fast as governments ban the drugs, manufacturers produce new variants.
Nearly 5% of European Union residents aged between 15 and 24 have already experimented with such drugs, said the report.
In the US, 158 kinds of synthetic drugs were circulating during 2012, more than twice as many as in the EU, and use was growing in East and Southeast Asia, including China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
Gil Kerlikowske, director of the US Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the US faces “continuing challenges with prescription drug abuse and new synthetic drugs”.