Early Warning Systems

This module provides information about early warning systems including UNODC’s global system, the Early Warning Advisory; regional systems; and the elements needed in a national early warning system.​
The module includes resources for policymakers, forensic drug laboratories, law enforcement and customs authorities.
Learn about the importance of setting up national early warning systems for the early identification of the most harmful, prevalent and persistent substances and to help identify new synthetic drug trends to guide evidence-based policies and enable timely responses.  

What are early warning systems?

An early warning system is a multidisciplinary inter-agency network which aims to:
  • enable the exchange of information among key actors in the field of drugs
  • identify emerging drugs that pose a potential threat to public health
  • identify changes in drug markets e.g. new use patterns, unusual concentrations or toxic adulterants
  • facilitate assessments of the risks posed by such drugs
  • provide evidence to guide effective responses

Please see the UNODC explains video for more information

What does a functioning early warning system require?


Over the last decade, new psychoactive substances (NPS) have started to spread globally along with other emerging drug threats such as new use patterns and toxic adulterants found in drugs. This fast-changing and very dynamic drug market requires close monitoring, early detection and timely responses to counter such emerging drug threats. Through the collection of such information, early warnings can be produced. These act as a communication tool to spread advance notice to relevant stakeholders in order to prevent or reduce the risk of harm, increase risk awareness and improve safety.