1. Early warning on emerging drug threats at the international level – opportunities and challenges
The Early Warning Advisory on New Psychoactive Substance (EWA) of the UNODC was launched in June 2013 as a response to the emergence of NPS at the global level. It monitors, analyzes and reports trends on synthetic drugs as a basis for effective evidence-based policy responses.
Based on the analysis of close to 30,000 datasets from 134 countries and territories, comprising over 1,100 different NPS identified in seized material, and the analysis of toxicology cases involving NPS, evolving patterns of NPS emergence, persistence, association with harm and geographic distribution are identified.
The overall stable number of distinct NPS reported each year at the global level in recent years hides an underlying dynamic of continuous innovation and change as well as significant regional differences in patterns of emergence and persistence. Polydrug use involving NPS continues to be an important feature in toxicology cases.
Early warning at the international level has enabled the international community to identify NPS soon after their emergence on illicit drug markets as well as to monitor their persistence and regional spread. This allows the analysis of trends in diversity and innovation across effect groups and regions, an understanding of which is relevant to informing future drug policy measures. The role of the global early warning in the early identification of threats and the subsequent provision of appropriate scientific information and assistance to forensic toxicologists and forensic service providers worldwide continues to be of utmost importance.