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International News

Synthetic Drugs Now Second Most Popular Drugs: UN

September 15, 2011

Synthetic amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) have surpassed heroin and cocaine to become the second-most widely consumed drugs in the world, after marijuana, according to a study released Tuesday by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).


"ATS are attractive to millions of drug users in all regions of the world because they are affordable, convenient to the user, and often associated with a modern and dynamic lifestyle," says the assessment. "Their risks are often underestimated in public perception."

Increasingly, those risks include HIV/AIDS. "Injecting ATS use is also growing and increasing the risk of blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS," the report says. "In Thailand, injecting is the second-most common delivery system for ATS, while in New Zealand it is the most commonly injected drug. Injecting use is also now commonplace in some countries in Europe."

Also troubling is the emergence of so-called analogue substances, which may be sold as "bath salts" or "plant food." "Highly dangerous and as yet still deemed legal in many countries, these drugs remain widely available over the Internet," UNDOC warned.

"The ATS market has evolved from a cottage-type industry typified by small-scale manufacturing operations to more of a cocaine- or heroin-type market with a higher level of integration and organized crime groups involved throughout the production and supply chain," UNDOC chief Yury Fedotov said in a statement.

The volume of drugs seized is indicative of the growing problem. The number of methamphetamine pills confiscated by authorities in Southeast Asia grew from 32 million in 2008 to 133 million last year.

To download the full report, visit

Back to other news for September 2011

Adapted from:
Agence France Presse

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
More News and Research on Injection Drug Use and HIV

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