EURAD attends EC Expert Seminar on New Psychoactive Substances

EURAD attended the European Commissions' expert seminar along with 34 other stakeholders from across Europe on 15th December 2011 to elaborate on policy options for psychoactive substances at the European level.

What are psychoactive drugs?

A psychoative drug is a "new narcotic or psychotropic drug, in pure form or in preparation, that is not controlled by the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances, but which may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions" (Council Decision 2005/387/JHA)

What is the framework for this action at a European Level?

In October 2011, the European Commission published 'Towards A Stronger European Response To Drugs', which set out a commitment from the European Commission to "lend fresh impetus to the EU anti-drugs policy".

One of the main EU level instruments in anti-drugs policy is on the emergence of new drugs (new psychoactive substances) and dates from 2005. Under this instrument, there are six steps for submitting a new psychoactive drug to control measures, which so far, has only been used twice (in 2007 for BZP and in 2010 for mephedrone).

What are member states doing about psychoactive drugs?

The amount of time it takes to put a new substance under control depends on the legal procedure involved and the level of approval that might be required. However, to overcome procedural delays, Germany, the UK and the Netherlands have established emergency systems that enable a substance to be placed under temporary control for a year.

Given the powers introduced by Ireland as part of the Criminal Justice (Pscyhoactive Substances Act) 2010, it may be used as an example for other countries. In their act, a psychoactive substance is notably defined by its' effect as well as by other characteristics and can be understood to mean a substance that when consumed has the capacity to "produce stimulation or depression of the central nervous system". The act also covers sweeping powers in the area of sales of psychoactive substances, sales of objects associated with their cultivation and advertising. The full act, for reference, can be viewed by clicking here.

What is the European Commission doing on psychoactive drugs?

The European Commission wishes to come up with a new regulatory package to address pscyhoactive substances within 2012, in order to improve the existing legislative mechanism which has been in place since 2005.

Under the current (2005) legal instrument, there are six steps for submitting a new psychoactive substance to control measures and so far, this procedure has only been used twice (in 2007 for for BZP and in 2010 for mephedrone). The landcape of psychoactive drugs however has changed markedly since then as 115 new psychoactive substances have been reported by Member States, through the EU Early Warning System.

The Commission have assessed the current 2005 legal instrument and has found that it has 3 major shortcomings:

1. It is unable to tackle the large increase in the number of new psychoactive substances

2. It is reactive

3. It lacks options for regulatory and control measures

The new regulatory package therefore seeks to improve the current instrument and the European Commission's Anti-Drugs Policy Unit has already begun prepatory work, which they will continue to prepare in 2012. 

What is EURAD's role in this?

EURAD will continue to follow EU developments on psychoactive drugs and inform members accordingly. A full briefing will be provided by EURAD on psychoactive drugs in the coming weeks.

For more information, contact us.