Key benzodiazepines, phenobarbital and methylphenidate continue to dominate the licit international market for psychotropic substances

VIENNA (14 April 2021) - The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), a United Nations body, released today the latest consolidated global data on the licit production, trade and use of internationally controlled psychotropic substances for 2019. The INCB publication Psychotropic Substances 2020: Statistics for 2019, Assessments of Annual Medical and Scientific Requirements for 2021 notes that diazepam, midazolam, clonazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, bromazepam, phenobarbital and methylphenidate remain the most manufactured and traded psychotropic substances in 2019, as in past years. The publication also notes that countries have increased their assessments for midazolam, a substance generally used as an anaesthetic, as use of the substance is expected to increase for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

The publication also marks 50 years since the adoption in Vienna of the Convention on Psychotropic Substance of 1971, which expanded the international control of drugs to also include psychotropic substances. The publication notes the rapid adoption of the 1971 Convention by countries as well as the commitment by States Parties to fully implement its provisions over the past 50 years.

Psychotropic Substances 2020 presents data and analysis on 149 psychotropic substances under international control for 2019 which includes many benzodiazepines, barbiturates, amphetamine-type-stimulants and tetrahydrocannabinol isomers (including delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol).

Key findings:

  • Of the 149 psychotropic substances under international control, thirty-six see significant activity on the licit international market with the majority of that activity involving benzodiazepines included in Schedule IV of the 1971 Convention.
  • Diazepam, midazolam, clonazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, bromazepam were the most heavily manufactured and traded benzodiazepines in 2019 with diazepam seeing the most activity, having been imported by 153 countries during the year for a global total of just under 56 tons.
  • Phenobarbital remains one the most widely manufactured and traded internationally controlled psychotropic substances in 2019 with over 382 tons of the substance manufactured that year and 148 countries reporting a global total of just under 200 tons imported.
  • Of stimulants controlled under the 1971 Convention, methylphenidate remains the only stimulant that is widely manufactured, traded and consumed. Although manufacture dropped to 57.2 tons in 2019, imports reached a new high with 111 countries reporting a global total of 55.2 tons. Overall, the consumption of methylphenidate continues to increase with consumption at very high levels in a few countries.
  • Monitoring the availability of psychotropic substances for medical and scientific use continues to be a challenge. While nearly 90 countries and territories did provide consumption data for at least one psychotropic substance, the gaps in consumption data remain significant and hinder the ability for the international community to ensure equitable access to internationally controlled psychotropic substances.

The format of the 2020 edition of Psychotropic Substances has also been updated. The annexes of the publication-only available in the online eBook version-have been completely overhauled to allow readers to more quickly find key country and substance specific data.

The Psychotropic Substances report is published by the INCB each year, and it accompanies the Annual Report of the Board. Psychotropic Substances is based on the data provided by countries and analysed by INCB. INCB has published the report since 1980.

Download the 2020 edition of Board's technical report psychotropic substances.

Download the infographic and poster for Psychotropic Substances 2020.

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