Laws targeting supply of new psychoactive substances

European countries take measures to prevent the supply of drugs under three United Nations Conventions, which provide a framework for control of production, trade and possession of over 240 psychoactive substances. The rapid emergence of new psychoactive substances and the diversity of available products has proved challenging for the Conventions and for European policymakers and lawmakers.

At national level, various measures have been used to control new substances, and three broad types of legal response can be identified. Many countries in Europe first responded by using consumer safety legislation, and subsequently extended or adapted existing drug laws to incorporate new psychoactive substances. Increasingly, countries have designed specific new legislation to address this phenomenon. There is wide variation in the definitions of the offences and the penalties - as is the case for drug laws across Europe. The general trend in national drug control laws, that is to reduce penalties for personal possession, is also evident in recent laws on new drugs. Most of the new laws specific to new psychoactive substances only penalise illegal supply and have no penalty for personal possession.

At EU level, the current legal framework for the control of new psychoactive substances, which dated from 2005, is under revision, with the aim of establishing a swifter, more effective system for submitting conduct related to harmful new psychoactive substances to criminal law measures.