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Published: 15 November 2011

Risk assessment guidelines

The current operating guidelines for the risk assessment of new psychoactive substances, adopted in 2008, were implemented for the first time in 2010 with mephedrone (EMCDDA, 2010). The guidelines provide a conceptual framework for conducting a scientifically sound, evidence-based assessment in a timely fashion and where information sources are limited. The main areas under consideration are health and social risks, manufacture and trafficking, involvement of organised crime and the possible consequences of control measures.

The guidelines consider all factors that, according to the 1961 and 1971 UN Conventions, would warrant placing a substance under international control. They also introduce a novel semi-quantitative scoring system based on expert judgment. The guidelines take into account a dual definition of risk, namely the probability that some harm may occur (usually defined as ‘risk’), and the degree of seriousness of such harm (usually defined as ‘hazard’). In addition, there is a review of the prevalence of use, the potential benefits and the risks of the substance independent of its legal status in the Member States and comparison with better known drugs.

In 2010, the World Health Organisation also adopted a revision of their guidelines for the review of psychoactive substances for international control (WHO, 2010).

EMCDDA (2010), Operating guidelines for risk assessment of new psychoactive substances, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

WHO (2010), Guidance on the WHO review of psychoactive substances for international control, World Health Organisation, Geneva,

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The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Page last updated: Friday, 28 October 2011