New individual substances added to the Swiss narcotics list to combat designer drugs

To combat the abuse of novel synthetic substances as narcotics, the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) has prohibited a further 11 individual substances and amended the Swiss Narcotics Directory Ordinance accordingly. On the supplementing of the relevant ordinance effective 31 March 2023, these new psychoactive substances will be equivalent to narcotics: manufacture and trade will be illegal and subject to penalties under the Swiss Narcotics Act (Betäubungsmittelgesetz / Loi sur les stupéfiants / legge sugli stupefacenti).

The term “designer drugs” refers to novel psychoactive chemicals with varying effects that are continually tweaked in labs to circumvent legal prohibitions. These medications, often known as “research chemicals” or “legal highs,” pose a significant health risk: it is unknown how they interact with other narcotics, whether they are addictive – and if so, to what extent – or how hazardous they are when taken repeatedly. Since they are structurally like banned drugs, it is reasonable to presume that their ingestion is hazardous.

With the inclusion to far of 276 individual chemicals and 15 substance categories (derivatives) with suspected narcotic-like effects on the Narcotics List, the growth of designer drugs on the black market and the intake of potentially hazardous substances to health are being actively combated. In response to a request from Swissmedic, the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products, the Narcotics List has been revised. Swissmedic, in collaboration with other national and international agencies, continuously assesses whether new synthetic chemicals or substance classes are being misused. Placement on the list of raw materials and items with suspected narcotic-like properties should also prevent Switzerland from becoming a hub for the transshipment of designer medicines.

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