Although the consumption of substances controlled under the UN Conventions on drugs (‘controlled drugs’) seems to have stabilized in recent years, a major challenge has arisen which is the emergence of new synthetic substances that emerge on the market at a rapid speed.
New psychoactive substances (NPS) are increasingly available that often replicate the effects of controlled drugs, and are typically marketed as legal alternatives to them because they are not subjected to similar control measures. The Commission Communication "Towards a stronger European response to drugs", adopted in October 2011, identified NPS as one of the problems requiring a firm response at the EU level. To effectively reduce the availability of harmful NPS, it is necessary to cover NPS by criminal law provisions (Brussels 17.9.2013 COM2013 619 final).
Estimating the prevalence of use of NPS continues to present challenges, especially through general population surveys. In some cases, such as with the synthetic cannabinoids, there is a clear discordance between seizures and the levels of use reported in surveys. During 2013 the EMCDDA continued to work with its partners on ways to strengthen epidemiological methods and indicators related to the use of NPS. This includes exploring the development of indicators based on waste water analysis New report: assessing illicit drugs in wastewater. EMCDDA presents latest advances in monitoring illicit drugs in wastewater.
Needs that the current project aims to address.
to decide if a new substance is a “harmful NPS” to be submitted to criminal law provisions, the Commission shall consider if, based on existing evidence, the substance poses severe health, social and safety risks, and should take into account the prevalence and patterns of use in the general population and in specific groups, its availability to consumers, its potential for diffusion, and the number of Member States where it poses risks (Article 13 of the Proposal).
Thus there is a need for an early identification of the new substances and to assess health and social risks, prevalence and patterns of use, and diffusion in Member States. The provision of timely and objective information on NPS is of growing importance, given the dynamic nature of the drug issue in Europe. A range of information sources and indicators are currently used by the EMCDDA and the NFP to detect NPS and to circulate information through the Early Warning Systems (EWS). However, new sources of information are needed to provide early warnings on emerging drugs in Europe and to provide instruments for their regulation.