The Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) of the World Health Organization (WHO) will hold its 39th meeting from 6th to 10th November 2017 in Geneva. The ECDD is mandated by the 1961 and 1971 UN drug conventions with the task of undertaking scientific reviews of substances and recommending their appropriate scheduling to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), taking into account both risks related to non-medical use and therapeutic usefulness.

In the context of the proliferation of new psychoactive substances, the principle of scientific review is of greater importance than ever. In this regard, scheduling plays a key role in both restricting non-medical use of controlled substances and ensuring access to controlled medicines. The UNGASS Outcome Document gives due prominence to ensuring access to controlled medicines with an entire chapter dedicated to the issue, thereby raising the profile of the ECDD, which work in maintaining the principle of scientific review is critical and fully supported by IDPC.

At its 39th session, the ECDD will review a number of psychoactive substances and make recommendations to the UN Secretary General on whether and how these substances should be internationally controlled. Sixteen substances will be under review at the upcoming meeting, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tramadol. In this advocacy note, IDPC offers some analysis and key recommendations on these two substances to inform the ECDD’s meeting.