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Communication campaign – Combating the spread of synthetic drugs, including fentanyl

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Fentanyl, press conference on update of activities under the National Prevention Plan




Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid, 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin. This illegally produced substance is available on the market in various forms, including liquid and powdered forms.
Over the past decade, fentanyl has drastically altered the opioid market in North America, with serious social consequences. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), deaths from synthetic opioids remained stable until 2012, but have increased dramatically since 2013. In the past three years, fentanyl-related deaths in the United States have reached the contours of an epidemic (more than 100,000 deaths). Also in the U.S., fentanyl seizures in 2022 are almost double those 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 analogs, often more potent than fentanyl itself, have also caused numerous intoxications and deaths in Europe. Two of these illegal derivatives, furanylFentanyl and ocFentanyl, have also been the cause of deaths on Italian soil. Since 2012, the European Monitoring Centre 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.

Italian commitment
Italy is therefore closely following the evolving threat of synthetic drugs and is fully committed to countering their production, trade, including online, and demand both on its own national territory and in international coordination initiatives. Although in our country there is currently no synthetic drug emergency, the Italian government has made combating fentanyl a priority and adopted a strategy, officially presented on March 12, 2024, aimed at preventing the danger of the misuse of fentanyl and synthetic opioids. A number of administrations are participating in the implementation of the strategy, including MAECI, which has pledged to put the topic of synthetic drugs on the agenda of the G7 Foreign Affairs, the G7 Rome-Lyon Group dedicated to combating terrorism and transnational organized crime, and to promote increasing international cooperation in relevant international forums, such as the Global Coalition Against Threats from Synthetic Drugs, the United Nations and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

At the international level
The issue of the threat related to the spread of synthetic drugs has been addressed in the framework of the Italian G7 Presidency, in the Foreign strand during the April 16-19 ministerial in Capri, in the Interior strand, and in the meeting of the Roma-Lyon Group held April 17-19, 2024 in Rome.
Italy will therefore continue to be an active participant in the relevant multilateral forums, 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. In addition, since December 2022 Italy has assumed the chairmanship 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 put in place is to intercept and prevent the access of fentanyl and its analogues to Italy and its spread throughout the country, with work coordinated by the Department for Antidrug Policies that has involved both those involved on a daily basis 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.