Designer drugs on the rise

Designer drugs too easy to make; poorer countries lack access to pain relief.

Canada a significant supplier of marijuana

Raw materials for pain relief medications are available but there are obstacles for patients who need to access them. (iStock)

Designer drugs with effects reportedly similar to cocaine and ecstasy are being produced in greater numbers, according to a new report.

The United Nation's International Narcotics Control Board, an independent monitoring body, released its annual report on designer drugs and pain relief on Wednesday.

"Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances," said Hamid Ghodse, the board's president.

Designer drugs such as the party drug mephedrone, sometimes also known as "meow meow," can be easily manufactured, the report said.

The role of corruption in drug trafficking was a major theme of the report, which highlighted challenges for each continent.

Canada is a key source of drugs like ecstasy and methamphetamine and is also a "significant supplier" of high-potency cannabis, the group said in describing the illegal drug trade in North America, the report suggested.

Narcotic medicine access 

Ghodse also said that more than 80 per cent of people worldwide are suffering unnecessarily because they don't have access to enough pain relief drugs.

Just 10 per cent of the world's population consumes legal narcotics such as morphine, fantanyl and oxycodone and opioid analgesics used to treat pain from cancer and AIDS.

Psychotropic medicines such as antidepressants, antipsychotics and depressants are used as anesthetics and in mental and emotional disorders.

"It has to be recognized that the availability of narcotics and psychotropic medicines is indispensible to medical practice," Ghodse told reporters.

Raw materials like opium for the medications are available, but there are obstacles for patients who need them, the report's authors said.

Cost barriers can be overcome, but lack of education of health professionals, regulatory constraints, difficulties in distribution, and the absence of health policy that includes pain treatment are harder, they said.

The board urged governments to adopt recommendations affecting the availability of drugs for medical and scientific purposes, legislation, education, control systems and abuse prevention.