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Finland bans 85 new psychoactive substances

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
27.10.2016 13.27
Press release 185/2016

A Government decree will prohibit the production, import, storage, sale and handing over of 85 new psychoactive substances i.e. NPS, which are currently not monitored. Possession and use of these substances will not lead to a penalty. The decree will take effect on 14 November 2016.

Prohibited substances not in legal use

The prohibited 85 substances are not classified as medicine or narcotics, and they have no known industrial uses. 49 of them are known to be only in substance use in Europe. The remaining 36 are positional isomers of the aforementioned substances, and they may have harmful or dangerous health effects when used for intoxicating purposes. The prohibited substances have also been reported to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Most of the prohibited new NPS are synthetic cathinones or their positional isomers. Synthetic cathinones are related to the active substance of the khat drug. One of the better known new cathinones is MDPV, which has been internationally classified as a narcotic. Cathinones act as a stimulant, in a similar way as e.g. substances resembling amphetamine.

This time, new substances are also added to the largest group of NPS, i.e. synthetic cannabinoids. Even though synthetic cannabinoids attempt to mimic the same effect as using cannabis, significant additional risks are related to their use. Synthetic cannabinoids may be significantly stronger than cannabis and their accurate dosing can be difficult because the substance is available as a pure and impure powders as well as in various herbal mixtures.

The list of prohibited substances also includes substances that are different from the groups with established chemical structure. As the variety of substances increases, the dangers of abuse rise. For example, the danger of poisoning increases and treatment becomes more difficult when the users or healthcare professionals are not familiar with the effects, combined effects and dosing of these substances.

Suspected adverse health effects enough for prohibition

An annex to the decree lists substances with potential adverse health effects, but there is no information yet if these substances have the same kind of adverse effects as substances classified as narcotics. Including these substances to the list of monitored substances is important, as they spread quickly in the EU area: Last year, the EMCDDA received reports of 98 new NPS, which comes to about two new NPS a week, and the pace has not appeared to be slowing down. Online marketing and free mobility increase the availability of these substances in Finland, too. The Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea has made a proposal to start monitoring the substances. Fimea has worked together on identifying the substances with the police and customs.

New psychoactive substances, i.e. NPS, refer to the kinds of substances used for intoxication which may have adverse health effects and have been reported for monitoring in the EU or are positional isomers of these substances, and which are not classified as medicine or narcotics. The use of these substances can be hazardous to a person's health and have adverse effects on mental health and social functional capacity. Prohibiting a substance on the consumer market does not prevent the use of the substance, but the goal of the prohibition is to prevent the spread and recreational use of NPS. Prohibition may slow down and even prevent the spread of the substances to new user groups and, in particular, young people. It also improves the possibilities of monitoring.

Additional information:

Ministerial Advisor Elina Kotovirta, tel. +358 (0)295 163977

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