Synthetic substances slip through net, while glut of morphine poses its own dangers

Drugs such as ecstasy are evolving into the main drugs of the future, says the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Controlling these synthetic substances is exceptionally difficult, since they can be produced cheaply and easily anywhere in the world, as long as traffickers are able to secure the necessary chemical substances. According to the commission, traffickers have started diverting legal chemical substances from industry. They also get companies to produce precursor substances illegally before smuggling them into a narcotics-producing country. Given this, there is a strong need for intergovernmental cooperation to effectively combat trafficking in precursor substances. In its annual report for 2002, the commission dealt with the danger of the overproduction of morphine as a pain-relieving drug at length, warning that cultivation and production of the drug far exceeded medical purposes. There was an increased risk of stocks being diverted into illegal narcotics markets, it said. The global market in opiates that form the basis for pain-relieving drugs is roughly the same size as the illegal market in heroin and opium. Four hundred tons of morphine are produced each year.