Report on use of GHB and ketamine (synthetic drugs)

March 4, 2002

Brussels, 1 March 2002

Monitoring GHB and ketamine in 2001 ­ Europol-EMCDDA progress report. Note from Europol/EMCDDA to Horizontal Working Party on Drugs. Brussels, February 2002 (document 6672/02 CORDROGUE 24). Full text

Please find herewith aforementioned progress report that was established

­ in the framework of Article 3 of the Joint Action of 16 June 1997 concerning the information exchange, risk assessment and the control of new synthetic drugs and in accordance with Council Conclusions adopted by the JHA Council of 15 march 2001

­ and pursuant to conclusions of the Council of 15 March 2001 which recommend:
* active monitoring of GHB during 2001,
* monitoring of ketamine during the same period.

Monitoring GHB and ketamine in 2001

Europol-EMCDDA Progress Report
In the framework of Article 3 of the Joint Action of 16 June 1997 concerning the information exchange, risk assessment and the control of new synthetic drugs and in accordance with Council Conclusions adopted by the JHA Council of 15 march 2001.

On 15 March 2001, the Council adopted conclusions which recommend:
­ active monitoring of GHB during 2001;
­ monitoring of ketamine during the same period.

Accordingly, the EMCDDA and Europol were invited by the Council to monitor in the framework of their respective work programmes and in cooperation with the Member States, any new supplementary information concerning these two substances in the fields of consumption, trafficking and public health related problems.

1. ACTIVE MONITORING OF GHB

During 2001, GHB has been subject to "active monitoring" by EMCDDA and Europol through their respective networks particularly to collate information on:

­ clinical effects (deaths, overdose cases, hospital admissions) associated with GHB, as well as data sources and investigation methods;

­ prevalence and patterns of non-medical use and behaviours of users;

­ seizures and any other information on the type of products in use (powder, tablets, liquid, etc.);

­ the role of organised crime in the production, diversion and trafficking of GHB;

­ the use of internet for marketing of GHB for non-medical purposes.

­ relevant legal texts and information on related control measures have been forwarded to the EMCDDA by its network of legal correspondents in the 15 Member States and Norway....

Conclusions:

­ GHB, as a drug for recreational use, is still present in the majority of Member States.

However, the number of reported fatal intoxications has been declining in 2001. This trend could be linked to a better knowledge among potential users about the drug most dangerous effects (avoiding to combine its use with alcohol); since 2000, on-site prevention teams have organised specific actions and targeted information campaigns.

­ Information will continue to play a major role, in particular for the fact that GHB is still produced and sold without the involvement of organised crime networks. The preventive approach is even more relevant in the case of GBL abuse (see: Swedish Report on GBL- Appendix 1), due to the very large availability of this substance and, as a consequence, the very reduced impact of eventual control measures against. its diversion from industrial use.

2. MONITORING OF KETAMINE

The Council has encouraged the EMCDDA and Europol to continue monitoring the manufacture, trafficking, patterns of use and health consequences of ketamine, particularly the trends in recreational use, during the year 2001.

2.1. Information on the frequency, circumstances and/or quantities in which Ketamine was encountered in 2001.

Law enforcement agencies in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain Sweden and the United Kingdom reported to Europol that they have no information and intelligence that suggest large-scale production, trafficking or distribution of Ketamine. (Luxembourg did not provide any information.) Available information points to low or insignificant levels of production, trafficking or distribution. No Member State has evidence or indications on a role of organised crime in such activities.

In Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Portugal, no seizures of Ketamine occurred in 2001.

The Anti-Poison Centre in Belgium recorded one case of a non-fatal overdose of Ketamine, which is produced by the Irish pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis and sold under the registered trade mark of KETALAR. Prices of Ketamine range from * 5 to * 10 per gram.

In Denmark, one first case involving Ketamine was recorded in 2001. This related to a Danish citizen who had sent 130 grams of the substance from Thailand to his home address in Denmark, with a view to selling it at a techno party. In Finland, 300 grams of Ketamine were seized, believed to have been imported.

In France, two seizures totalling 3 grams of Ketamine and in last September a major seizure of 5 liters in the Yvelines area occurred in 2001. A first estimation by the Yvelines Departmental Sûreté police, which arrested ten suspects in this operation, was that an amount of 25 liters could have been smuggled in 2001 from India via the UK by the same trafficking group. In addition, five burglaries of ketamine in veterinary form (Imagène (r)) have been notified to the AFFSAPS since October 2001.

In Greece a few minor seizures were recorded. In Germany, law enforcement agencies recorded three incidents involving Ketamine since 1999. In two cases this related to the exportation of the substance, whereas in the other case Ketamine was seized in combination with other illegal drugs.

In Ireland, three seizures amounting to 1 gram occurred. In addition the An Garda seized 7,641 tablets, which had Ketamine as a constituent. They also contained Paracetamol and Caffeine. In Spain, nine seizures of Ketamine occurred in 2000 and 2001, totalling 7.7 grams, 7 litres and 54 doses. The seizures led to the arrest of 32 suspects. Law enforcement agencies in Sweden made only a few seizures of Ketamine in 2001. The use of Ketamine is believe to be very limited. There were occasional burglaries and thefts from veterinarians.

In the United Kingdom, the profile of Ketamine has significantly increased, especially within the clubbing industry, publications and the media, although this is not reflected in seizure levels. Seizures in tablet form have declined, although Ketamine continues to be tableted as `ecstasy'. Ketamine in powder form has become a drug of misuse in its own right. It has been seized in white and pink colours. There is a trend towards seizures of Ketamine powder in wraps, similar to those used for cocaine and amphetamine. Wraps have been seized with distributors within clubs.

The Medicines Control Agency (MCA), in 2001, dealt with six referrals on Ketamine, two of which were wraps. Ketamine is imported into the United Kingdom as a bulk chemical for the illicit market. Intelligence demonstrates that it is distributed alongside controlled drugs in drug distribution networks. The National Crime Squad has seen no evidence of increasing product utilisation by organised criminal groups. This is confirmed by the 33 synthetic drug- orientated anti-crime operations since April 2001 that have shown no evidence of the drug. In Scotland, recent articles within the press suggest that Ketamine is widely available but recoveries would not substantiate this and there is no intelligence to suggest its widespread use. Information, however, suggests that it is quite often being sold at street level as ecstasy and it is therefore possible that some of the intelligence believed to relate to ecstasy could in fact be Ketamine. The small recoveries there have been are often linked to other drugs. Also, there have been seizures of a mixture of Ketamine and MDMA. There is no intelligence to suggest that organised criminals are involved in the supply of Ketamine in Scotland.

Conclusions:

1. Large-scale production, trafficking and distribution of Ketamine do not occur in any of the Member States1. Seizures of Ketamine are limited, both in number and quantity.

2. No Member State has provided Europol with information or intelligence that would suggest an involvement of organised crime in the production, trafficking or distribution of Ketamine.

3. No substantial differences have been noticed when comparing the situation in 2000 with 2001.

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