Today the European Union has decided to subject two new synthetic cannabinoids to control measures across the 28 Member States (1). The implementing decisions of the Council of the EU (2), based on proposals by the European Commission, were adopted in the final stage of the three-step legal procedure designed to respond to new psychoactive substances (NPS) that may pose public health and social threats (3)(4). The substances in question are ADB-CHMINACA and CUMYL-4CN-BINACA, which have been raising health concerns in Europe.
Harmful effects linked to the use of the two substances have been reported by the Member States through the EU Early Warning System (EWS), operated by the EMCDDA and Europol. Following publication of the decisions in the Official Journal of the European Union, the Member States will have one year to introduce the controls into national legislation.
Today’s decisions are based on the findings of formal risk assessments of the substances, conducted by the extended EMCDDA Scientific Committee in November 2017, with participation of additional experts from the EU Member States, European Commission, Europol and the European Medicines Agency.
The risk assessments assessed the health and social risks of the drugs, as well as international trafficking and the involvement of organised crime (5).
Available in the EU since at least 2014, ADB-CHMINACA has been detected in 17 Member States, Turkey and Norway. At the time of the risk assessment, 13 deaths with confirmed exposure to the substance had been reported by three EU Member States (Germany, Hungary and Sweden). CUMYL-4CN-BINACA has been available on the EU drug market since at least 2015 and has been detected in 11 Member States and Turkey. At the time of the risk assessment, 11 deaths with confirmed exposure to the substances had been reported by two EU Member States (Hungary and Sweden). The two substances are typically found in herbal ‘smoking mixtures’ or in powder form, but other preparations are also available (e.g. blotters, e-liquids for vaping in e-cigarettes).
Synthetic cannabinoids have similar effects to Δ⁹-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive substance in cannabis, but with additional life-threatening toxicity. Since around 2006, ‘legal high’ products containing synthetic cannabinoids have been sold in Europe and marketed as ‘legal’ replacements for cannabis. Of the nine risk assessments carried out by the EMCDDA in 2017, four were related to synthetic cannabinoids.