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Brussels, 31 January 2013
Commission calls for EU-wide ban on amphetamine-like drug '4-MA'
The European Commission today proposed an EU-wide ban on ‘4-MA’, a synthetic substance with similar physical effects to amphetamines. The Commission asked EU Member States to prevent the drug spreading freely across Europe by submitting it to control measures. 4-methylamphetamine – or 4-MA – is already illegal in 10 EU countries (Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom). It has been associated with 21 deaths in four EU countries in 2010-2012 alone.
“4-MA is produced and distributed by criminal gangs and is known to kill," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "It has been detected in 15 EU countries and is already banned in 10. EU-wide action will help to stop it spreading and harming young people all over Europe.”
At least 21 fatalities have so far been reported in four Member States (Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) where 4-MA was detected in post-mortem samples, either alone or in combination with other substances, especially amphetamines.
The Commission’s proposal today would ban the manufacturing and the marketing of 4-MA, making it subject to criminal sanctions all over Europe. EU governments must now decide on whether to put these measures into force, voting by a qualified majority in the Council.
4-MA is a synthetic stimulant, whose effects are comparable to those produced by amphetamines. It is mostly produced in powder or paste form, but has also appeared in tablet and liquid form, often in mixtures containing amphetamine and caffeine. 4-MA is usually sold as amphetamine and therefore most users are unaware that they are consuming this substance.
A scientific risk assessment carried out by the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) showed that 4-MA can have important adverse effects, such as hyperthermia, hypertension, anorexia, nausea, headache, insomnia, paranoia, anxiety and depression. 4-MA has no established medical value or other known legitimate purpose. It is a controlled substance in 10 EU countries: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The Commission's proposal follows a procedure for risk-assessment and control of new psychoactive substances set up by Council Decision 2005/387/JHA. The Council asked for this risk assessment on 24 September 2012.
In 2010 the Commission proposed and achieved an EU-wide ban on the ecstasy-like drug mephedrone (see MEMO/10/646). On 25 October 2011, the European Commission announced an overhaul of the EU rules to fight illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances, which imitate the effects of dangerous drugs like ecstasy or cocaine and are a growing problem (IP/11/1236). A legislative proposal is expected during 2013.
The EU identified a record number of 73 such substances in 2012, up from 24 in 2009. They are increasingly available over the internet and have rapidly spread in many Member States, which face difficulties in preventing their sale.
According to a Eurobarometer survey in 2011, new substances that imitate the effects of illicit drugs are increasingly popular with 5% of young Europeans saying they have used them. The figures are the highest in Ireland (16%), followed by Poland (9%), Latvia (9%), the UK (8%) and Luxembourg (7%). The Eurobarometer revealed that across all 27 EU Member States, a large majority of 15 to 24 year-olds are in favour of banning these substances.
For more information
European Commission – Drug control policy:
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner:
Follow the Vice-President on Twitter: @VivianeRedingEU