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Synthetic drug manufacture can occur anywhere depending on human creativity and the availability of a few strategic chemicals.

The dynamic nature of synthetic drug markets necessitates nimble and adaptable solutions.

The UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy presents a framework for action to address this global problem.

Synthetic Drug Strategy


Global synthetic drug problem

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Global rise in
type seizures

As with other sought-after commodities, scarcity drives up prices. In the case of drugs, traffickers also adulterate their products to sell a dose for nominally the same price while investing less for the ‘raw material’. However, the synthetic drug market shows a completely different pattern; prices have been falling while the

purity of the drugs has been maintained or even increased, despite law enforcement taking larger and larger amounts off the market every year. This has been happening despite an increase in the number of users over the years which should, actually, increase demand. An obvious explanation would be that larger

volumes of synthetic drugs are being manufactured at low cost which allows traffickers to compensate for the losses incurred through law enforcement activities, and respond to a growing demand for synthetic drugs, while keeping prices low and the purity high. This is a perfect storm scenario which requires a tailored response.

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Seizures of synthetic drugs are going up each year. Does this mean the supply of drugs reaching illicit markets is going down?

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An estimated 27 million people used amphetamine stimulants in 2019, corresponding to 1 in 200 of the global population.

20 million people globally are estimated to have used ecstasy in the past year.

More than 95% of Amphetamine Type Stimulant laboratories uncovered between 2015 and 2019 were used to manufacture methamphetamine.

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& cost


Ecstasy pills sold today often contain more than double the amount of the active substance MDMA compared to 2011 but cost about the same. What might sound like a good deal for users can potentially lead to a life-threatening overdose.

Methamphetamine prices in North America and South East Asia have collapsed making
a highly addictive drug more affordable
for a broader range of people.

The decrease in prices and increase in availability has made synthetic drugs more accessible to
young people.

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The number of known NPS has increased 6-fold since 2009 and
reached 1,047 unique substances in 2020.

On average traffickers have introduced 80 new substances to the illicit drug market each year in the last decade.


Women and drugs

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Four Spheres
of Action

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‘Opioid use disorder deaths are up by 71%
over the past 10 years and methamphetamine seizures are at a record high. To help countries protect health and take action, the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs developed by UNODC provides practical resources on legislation, forensics, health policy and more’

Ghada Waly

Executive Director


Making the world
safer from drugs,
crime and terrorism