2014-03-21 | Drug Trafficking

Brazil targets synthetic drug designers

Narco-traffickers hire “drug designers” to create new forms of synthetic drugs (above) to circumvent Brazil’s drug laws, according to the Federal Police. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images/AFP)

Narco-traffickers hire “drug designers” to create new forms of synthetic drugs (above) to circumvent Brazil’s drug laws, according to the Federal Police. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images/AFP)

By Nelza Oliveira for Infosurhoy.com

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – “Drug designers” are a new trend in the world of drug trafficking.

To circumvent existing laws, they create new synthetic drugs that cause effects similar to those of other illegal drugs.

Since a drug can be considered illegal in Brazil only if it is included in the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency’s (ANVISA) list of prohibited substances, suppliers of new drugs elude law enforcement.

“The drug traffickers who produce synthetic drugs hire these ‘drug designers’ to come up with new formulas to circumvent the laws in each country,” said Renato Pagotto, an officer with the Federal Police’s Drug Enforcement Office (CGPRE). “They simply produce new drugs with small modifications in the chemical molecules, forming substances that are not yet covered by law.”

The inclusion of a substance in the ANVISA list may be requested by the International Narcotics Control Board (JIFE), the United Nations (UN) or by the country’s drug enforcement agencies. Following the request, ANVISA experts study the drug to determine whether the list needs updating.

In an effort to deal with the rising wave of “drug designers,” ANVISA plans to update its list more frequently this year. Until last year, updates were made, on average, twice annually. The most recent was on Feb. 21, when 21 drugs were added.

These 21 drugs included Methylone and 25I-NBOMe, which are similar to Ecstasy and LSD, respectively. The Federal Police (PF) seized these substances in five Brazilian states since last year but couldn’t arrest the suppliers on drug-trafficking charges.

The PF studied the two drugs and requested they be included on ANVISA’s list.

“All drugs are devastating. But, according to our experts, these new drugs are more potent because users ingest a smaller amount to experience a more lasting effect,” Pagotto said. “The prices also are higher.”

The target audience for the new synthetic drugs, according to Pagotto, includes middle-class youth who attend raves. Most of the new formulas are developed in Europe and produced in India and China, according to the PF.

Users and dealers often are unaware the substances are new, São Paulo Public Prosecutor Cassio Roberto Conserino said.

“They don’t know that these aren’t the original drugs and that they may be even more damaging,” he said.

Conserino added any seized substance causing physical or psychological dependence should immediately be included on the list, even if it’s just temporary.

“ANVISA ought to monitor what’s happening abroad, to see whether these substances are already banned in other countries, and update its list in accordance with the international monitoring agencies,” he suggested. “There’s no need to wait. While they wait, there is a margin for loopholes that generate this kind of impunity.”

Cannabinoid for sale on the Internet

On March 16, TV Globo’s Sunday evening news program "Fantástico" showed that synthetic marijuana, which also is known as a cannabinoid, can enter Brazil freely and is being sold over the Internet.

This type of drug comes in several variations and only one is banned in Brazil, according to the program.

ANVISA said in a prepared statement there are, in fact, three types of cannabinoids banned in Brazil. But the agency acknowledged “there is currently an international discussion in search of strategies to deal with the problem of the creation of synthetic drugs.”

“[ANVISA] has approved adherence to the decisions regarding illicit substances adopted by similar agencies or international scientific police ... and it will update the list of proscribed substances as the requests arrive,” the statement said.

Pagotto emphasized that a substance not on ANVISA’s list doesn’t interfere with police work.

“Of course, inclusion facilitates the work of the police by classifying the crime as drug trafficking,” Pagotto added. “Regardless, we continue to make arrests.”

Anthony Wong, the medical director of the University of São Paulo School of Medicine Clinical Hospital’s Center for Toxicology Assistance (CEATOX), said some international agencies take proactive steps against synthetic drugs to avoid loopholes.

“They preemptively prohibit substances with a certain chemical structure,” he added.

In the case of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), a suspected substance may be temporarily prohibited – for up to 18 months – until tests have been carried out.

Wong said the agencies that fail to take preemptive steps will be limited to reacting to the damage instead of preventing it.

“In six months, these 21 substances included in the ANVISA list will be substituted with another 21 different prohibited molecules,” he added.

Comments and ratings are closed for this article.


  • italo | 2014-04-24

    This is a very good report. This is what we want from you.

  • cicera a da silva | 2014-04-21

    I am in favor of getting rid of drugs in Brazil so that it will be a better country.

  • Leandro Mello | 2014-04-20

    Instead of the police taking action, some of them form alliances with criminals. In reality, a lot of officers are criminals. There should also be tougher laws in Brazil because overall, it is unsafe in out in public. The police aren't capable of providing the security in view of all of the violence that occurs in every state in Brazil.

  • maria da conceição porto | 2014-04-19

    It would be easier to pass a law prohibiting the sale of any kind of mind-altering substances. The public is going out of their minds, dying and killing others. Until when? Isn't the whole world going crazy because of drugs?

  • Ricardovsantos | 2014-04-19

    Until Brazil implements a new security structure involving the four security forces to actually resolve this huge problem affecting Brazilian citizens, we will remain hostage to criminal bands that continue to challenge society. As everyone knows, the New York City police department when through this situation. The government implemented a strategy to separate good police officers from corrupt law enforcement officers and provided more funds, which has transformed it into a big police force that is respected throughout the world!

  • Paulo | 2014-04-19

    I didn't like this report because my son did not know about these things. Now, he keeps asking me what synthetic marijuana is. In my opinion, drugs exist because of advertising.

  • Luciamar Felix | 2014-04-19

    I think that these kinds of news reports should be published to raise the public's awareness of the evil that we face in our society today, and so that citizens in this country can stop being hypocrites and start seeing the truth of the atrocities occuring in our country. It's just that nobody takes a stand!

  • alex | 2014-04-17

    Great report!

  • CLAUDIO PEIXOTO | 2014-04-16

    Everyone knows who they are, where they are, how many there are, and how much they have, but nobody does anything because they are associated with them. Brazil is rotten from the inside out. Doing the right thing in Brazil is doing wrong!

  • francido oliveira costa | 2014-04-05

    I like news reports especially when the reports are about criminals being sent to jail. Not only do I, but everyone else hopes the police takes a stand.

  • Mirelly Passos | 2014-04-01

    News reports like this one should be published every day in newspapers, magazines, on TV, etc. in order to raise public awareness on the increasing danger of drugs.

  • jean | 2014-03-31

    The PM (militarized police) have to arrest all the traffickers.

  • Ana | 2014-03-25

    It seems like the authorities don't have a brain because they just think about unifying laws. It seems they like to turn simple things into complicated ones. There must be a better reason than that. Who knows, maybe they couldn't think of anything that an average citizen like myself thought of. They will always run into problems and continue passing inefficient laws. Every day a new kind of drug is invented. Wouldn't it be easier to pass just one law that prohibits any kind of mind-altering substance to be sold without government approval, instead of passing a bunch of laws that prohibit these substances?

    • luiz | 2014-04-19

      If everyone would think like you little girl, Brazil would be a much better place.