UNODC and Indonesia explore establishing early warning mechanism for synthetic drugs

Jakarta (Indonesia), 9 December 2022 – The evolution of the synthetic drug market is a truly global phenomenon. While markets for methamphetamine, amphetamine and ecstasy have expanded in both scale and geographically, numerous new psychoactive substances (NPS) and various synthetic drug products often in forms of mixture of several synthetic compounds have emerged, posing serious public health challenges.

In response to the evolving synthetic drug market, some countries in the world and regional organizations have adopted an early warning mechanism, which is a multidisciplinary, inter-institutional network, enabling information exchange among key actors directly or indirectly involved in the field of drugs. The main objective of early warning is early identification of emerging drugs and notable changes observed in the drug market, such as new use patterns, or unusual concentrations or contents such as toxic adulterants, all of which can pose public health challenges.   

Deputy Director of Law and Cooperation of BNN, Agus Irianto, delivering his opening remarks

Although challenges associated with synthetic drugs are significant in Southeast Asia, there is no early warning mechanism established and operational among countries in the region, including Indonesia. To address the gap in response to synthetic drugs, UNODC and together with the Government of Indonesia organized its first national consultative dialogue on early warning on 8-9 December 2022. The two-day dialogue was the first meeting among representatives from forensic experts, health professionals, law enforcement, regulatory bodies, and academic institutions working in the field of drugs to consider and discuss the necessary steps to create an early warning system in the country.

“Various cases for NPS have occurred in Indonesia, which is a significant challenge for national authorities in the country”, said Agus Irianto, Deputy Director of Law and Cooperation of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). “Establishing an early warning mechanism in the country will support us to better address challenges posed by synthetic drugs, in particular NPS.”

Professor Zullies Ikawati, Faculty of Pharmacy of Gadjah Mada University engaging in discussion

The dialogue served as a venue for discussing actionable steps that each authority could take for a national early warning mechanism, as well as identifying areas for strengthening data generation and exchange among participating authorities. “There is a significant gap in collating drug toxicology information in Indonesia. We do not have a coordination mechanism to capture toxicology information from hospitals across Indonesia”, said Mahardian Rahmadi, a member of the national committee for rescheduling narcotics, psychotropics and precursors and a faculty of pharmacy from Airlangga University of Indonesia. “National authorities should consider working with emergency units across hospitals of Indonesia to gather toxicology information, which will be useful for an early warning system (EWS).”

“It is great to see the Government of Indonesia recognizes the importance of establishing a national EWS”, said Tun Nay Soe, Inter-regional Coordinator for the UNODC Global SMART Programme. “It will not happen overnight but UNODC will continue to engage with and provide support to our partner authorities of Indonesia throughout the development process of a national EWS”.

Inter-regional Coordinator Tun Nay Soe explaining an EWS

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Regional Programme for Southeast Asia

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s work to address drug and precursor challenges in the region

Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Global SMART Programme