European Drug Report 2017

Drug supply and the market

Synthetic cathinones

Synthetic cathinones are chemically related to cathinone, which is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the khat plant (Catha edulis). These substances have effects similar to common illicit stimulant drugs such as amphetamine, cocaine and MDMA. Synthetic cathinones are the second largest group of new drugs monitored by the EMCDDA, with 118 detected in total - including 14 detected for the first time in 2016, a decrease from the 26 reported in 2015.

Seizures of synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones reported to the EU Early Warning System: trends in number of seizures and quantity seized

Number of seizure cases

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Number of seizure cases

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Cannabinoids (tonnes)

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Cathinones (tonnes)

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NB

Data for EU, Turkey and Norway

Synthetic cathinones were the most frequently seized new psychoactive substances in 2015, with over 25 000 seizures, accounting for one third of the total number of seizures. This represents an increase of over 17 000 seizures on the previous year. These seizures amounted to just over 1.8 tonnes, an increase of approximately 0.75 tonne compared with 2014. Synthetic cathinones are generally found in powder form. The five most commonly seized cathinones in 2015 were alpha- PVP, 3-MMC, ethylone, 4-CMC and pentedrone. Where reported, more than 60 % (1.2 tonnes) of the synthetic cathinones seized in 2015 were shipped from China. A large share (42 %) of the synthetic cathinones seized were 2-MMC (156 kg) and 3-MMC (616 kg), which are chemically related to mephedrone (4-MMC), but are not under international drug control. Mephedrone has become established in the illicit drug market in some countries, and it is likely that some of the 2-MMC and 3-MMC is being sold as mephedrone.

Chemical formulas of 2-MMC, 3-MMC and mephedrone (4-MMC)

2-MMC

3-MMC

Mephedrone (4-MMC)