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Note by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation about countering the spread of synthetic drugs, including Fentanyl

G7 Fentanyl 4

The phenomenon on a global level

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. This substance, produced illegally, is available on the market in various forms, including liquid and powder.

Over the past decade, fentanyl has dramatically altered the opioid market in North America, with serious social consequences. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from synthetic opioids remained stable until 2012, but have increased dramatically since 2013. In the last three years, fentanyl-related deaths in the United States have reached the contours of a true epidemic (over 100,000 deaths). Also in the USA, in 2022 fentanyl seizures were almost double those in 2021, with over 6 tons in powder form and 59.6 million tablets equivalent to over 398 million lethal doses of the substance.

These fentanyl analogues, often more potent than fentanyl itself, have caused numerous poisonings and deaths also in Europe. Two of these illegal derivatives, furanylFentanyl and ocFentanyl, have also caused deaths in Italy. Since 2012, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction has reported a significant increase in the availability of these substances in Europe, with 137 deaths associated with fentanyl in 2021 in EU member countries.

The Italian commitment

Italy is therefore carefully following the evolution of the threat of synthetic drugs and is fully committed to combating their production, trade, including online, and demand both on its own national territory and in international initiatives. Although there is currently no synthetic drug emergency in our country, the Italian Government has indicated the fight against fentanyl as a priority and has adopted a strategy, officially presented on 12 March 2024, aimed at preventing the danger of the improper use of fentanyl and synthetic opioids. Various administrations participate in the implementation of the strategy, including the MAECI, which has undertaken to include the topic of synthetic drugs on the agenda of the G7 foreign countries, of the G7 Rome Lyon Group dedicated to the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime and to promote ever-increasing international cooperation in the main relevant international fora, such as the Global Coalition against the Threats from Synthetic Drugs, the United Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

Internationally

The topic of the threat relating to the spread of synthetic drugs was discussed in the framework of the Italian G7 Presidency, in the foreign affairs section during the ministerial meeting of 16-19 April in Capri, in the Interior section and in the meeting of the Rome-Lyon Group held from 17 to 19 April 2024 in Rome.

Italy will therefore continue to take an active part in the competent multilateral fora, with particular reference to the Global Coalition against threats from synthetic drugs, the United Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, of which our country is a member. Furthermore, since December 2022 Italy has assumed the presidency of the Pompidou Group – Council of Europe Group for International Cooperation on Drugs and Addiction.

At the national level

The objective of the prevention activities implemented is to intercept and prevent the access of fentanyl and its analogues to Italy and its spread throughout the national territory. Work on this regard is coordinated by the Department for Anti-Drug Policies, which involved both the actors daily involved in activities to prevent and combat the spread of illegal substances in Italy and those who could be involved in the event of a possible emergency.