The European Commission has proposed a ban of seven new psychoactive substances that can cause severe harm to health and can even lead to death, and pose a growing threat to public health in Europe.

The seven new psychoactive substances, including those commonly known as “spice”, “herbal incense” and “legal weed”, belong to two categories: four of them are synthetic cannabinoids, with effects similar to cannabis but much more toxic, while the other three substances are synthetic opioids closely related to fentanyl, a substance controlled at international level.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said that new psychoactive substances pose an increasingly serious threat to public health.

“In Europe, we work to make sure that we stay one step ahead of this fast-moving and dangerous business,” have been,” she explained. “More needs to be done to keep European citizens safe, especially the younger generations. We need to ensure not only that these new drugs cannot be bought, but also that they don’t appear on the market in the first place. I now call for the Council to take a swift decision in order to speedily remove those new drugs from the market.”

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the seven toxic substances are associated with over 170 deaths across the EU and a number of acute intoxications.

Over the past 20 years, the EU has developed a sustainable European approach to addressing drugs. This approach is enshrined in the EU Drugs Strategy 2013-2020 which is operationalised in two consecutive four-year Action Plans. The proposal to ban seven NPS falls under the drug supply reduction action as set out in the EU Action Plan for Drugs for the period 2017-2020.

Last year, 66 new psychoactive substances were detected via the EU Early Warning System (EWS) – a rate of over one per week. Although this number is decreasing – 98 substances were detected in 2015 – the overall number of substances available remains high.

To address the rapid rise of new psychoactive substances, the Commission adopted a package of legislative proposals to enable the EU to act swifter and more effectively to address new psychoactive substances. The package, which was finally adopted last month, will become applicable in November 2018.