The development of new drugs that evade legal bans are now outpacing efforts to control or ban them, a UN report has warned. These designer drugs, which are sold openly and legally, can result in deadly highs.
New drugs marketed as "legal highs" and "designer drugs," which mimic the effects of existing illegal drugs such as amphetamine or cannabis, are fast emerging in great numbers, leaving authorities struggling to keep up, a new annual report from the UN Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) warned Wednesday.
These designer drugs, also known as new psychoactive substances (NPS), can be far more dangerous to users since little is known about their side effects, the UNODC report said.
"The international drug control system is floundering for the first time under the speed and creativity of the phenomenon," the UN reported.
In 2009, there were 166 known NPS, however that number rose to 251 in 2012, according to the report.
The drugs are often sold openly and under seemingly harmless names like spice, bath salts or herbal incense, and can be found via the Internet.
In the United States, NPS were the most used drugs among students, after cannabis. In Europe, nearly one in every 20 young people has tried a designer drug, according to the report.
Worldwide, cannabis is still the most commonly used illegal drug however in 60 percent of countries, prescription drug use is among the top three misused substances.
hc/rg (AFP, AP)