The world has seen an “unprecedented” surge in the production of new synthetic drugs, according to a report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In its latest Global Synthetic Drugs Assessment, the agency says it identified 348 new synthetic drugs in 94 countries as of last year, with the majority emerging between 2008 and 2013.
The UNODC received reports on 97 new synthetic drugs in 2013 alone, though it acknowledges that the true number of substances on the market could be much higher.
The agency defines new psychoactive substances as drugs that are not controlled under international conventions, but may pose public health risks. Synthetic cannabinoids — drugs designed to mimic the psychoactive effects of cannabis — comprised the majority (28 percent) of such substances reported to the UNODC between 2008 and 2013, followed by synthetic cathinones, including bath salts, at 25 percent.
Global seizures of methamphetamine, meanwhile, reached record levels last year as production and criminal activity continue to rise across Asia. Methamphetamine seizures in the region tripled between 2008 and 2012, rising from 12 tons to 36 tons, with China accounting for nearly 45 percent of the total. UNODC officials attribute much of this growth to an ongoing shift in both demand and production to Asia, resulting in new global trafficking patterns.
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