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Government wants to reduce harm caused by new psychoactive substances

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 4.7.2019 14.12
Press release

The Government has amended the decree on narcotic substances, preparations and plants (Narcotics Decree) and the decree on psychoactive substances prohibited on the consumer market. The aim of the amendments is to prohibit new psychoactive substances, to prevent their recreational use and to enable more efficient drug control.

The amendments will enter into force on 5 August 2019.

Seven new derivatives of benzodiazepine added to Finland’s narcotics list

The amendment of the Narcotics Decree classifies seven derivatives of benzodiazepine as narcotics at the national level.  The derivates are: adinazolam, flualprazolam, flunitrazolam, fluclotizolam, metizolam, nitrazolam and 3-hydroxyphenazepam. These substances closely resemble other substances classified as narcotics.

Various derivatives of benzodiazepine without any medical purposes have entered the market of new psychoactive substances (NPS) during the last few years. Using these substances easily develops a tolerance, and the use can lead to physical and psychological addiction. The risk of addiction increases if the doses become bigger, the use continues for a longer time or the person uses several different benzodiazepines simultaneously. It can be very difficult to overcome such addiction. 

Benzodiazepines have a paralysing effect, which can threaten users’ lives. This risk increases if the user simultaneously uses both benzodiazepines and alcohol or psychoactive medicines, such as, for example, sleeping pills, sedatives or antipsychotics. 

Substances classified as narcotics do not have any medical purposes in Finland. The new substances are not covered by the UN’s or the EU’s drug monitoring but they have been reported to the Early Warning System of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

Effective synthetic opioids difficult to dose

The Narcotics Decree will be amended by taking into account the decision of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs dated 19 March 2019. In accordance with the decision, four effective synthetic opioids will be covered by international monitoring. The four substances are methoxyacetylfentanyl, cyclopropylfentanyl, para-fluorobutyrfentanyl and ortho-fluorofentanyl. The four substances are structurally related to fentanyl, which is a controlled narcotic analgesic.

Fentanyls are highly dangerous synthetic opioids, because they are effective in very small doses and their accurate dosing is extremely difficult. Overdose results in a life-threatening respiratory depression. The substances are marketed in a way that provides no certainty on the content or purity of the sold product or they are sold as a completely different product or substance. This can also result in situations that unintentionally pose a risk to life and health.

New psychoactive substances prohibited and taken under control

The Government also amended the Annex to the Government decree on psychoactive substances prohibited on the consumer market. The Annex will be updated with 27 new substances taken under control. In future, the production, import, storage, sale and supply of these substances will be prohibited according to the Narcotics Act. Possession or use will not be punishable.

With regard to 20 of these substances, observations have been made in Europe that there are cases of recreational use. These substances do not have any other purposes. The remaining 7 substances are positional isomers of the aforementioned 20 substances, and they may have harmful or dangerous health effects in recreational use. The 27 substances taken under control are not medicines or narcotics and, as far as is known, they do not have industrial purposes either. 

The proposal on taking these substances under national control was made by the Finnish Medicines Agency (Fimea).

Using NPS can be harmful to health and have adverse effects on mental health and social functioning. While banning a substance does not stop its use completely, it can prevent the spread and recreational use of NPS. Banning the substances may slow down and even prevent their spread to new user groups and young people in particular. It will also enable more efficient drug control.

Inquiries

Elina Kotovirta, Ministerial Adviser +358 2951 63713, [email protected]