The Expert Committee on Drug Dependence
The Committee was established in 1949, one year after the World Health Organization was established. This was before the present drug conventions came into force and it was even before the start of the negotiations for the 1961 Convention (which was in the early 1950s). At that first meeting in 1949, the name of this Committee was Expert Committee on Habit-Forming Drugs. Already at its 2nd session in 1950, the name changed to Expert Committee on Drugs Liable to Produce Addiction, and then in 1964 it became the Expert Committee on Addiction-Producing Drugs. In 1966 it became the Expert Committee on Dependence-Producing Drugs, however, since 1969, the name has remained as it is today. Of course, these name changes reflect as many changes in views on the problem of dependence.
Since 1949, through its Expert Committee on Drug Dependence, WHO has reviewed more than 400 substances. Between 1948, when WHO was established, and 1999 the number of narcotic drugs under international control increased from 18 to 118, and the number of psychotropic substances from 32 to 111.
In its 2006 meeting the Committee decided that it will pay more attention in future meetings to the effects of scheduling of substances for their medical availability.
The Procedure of Pyschoactive Substance Evaluation
WHO undertakes medical and scientific evaluation of the dependence-producing properties of substances before the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and makes decisions on their control status. This procedure is described in detail in the Guidelines for the WHO review of psychoactive substances for international control.
On average, every two years a meeting of the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence is organized in Geneva. A group of experts (members of WHO's expert advisory panels) is invited to form the Committee. Substances can be put on the agenda for pre-review by several parties. In such a case the Secretariat prepares a pre-review report to determine whether the substance should go through a detailed review process, which is called a critical review. If the Expert Committee decides so, the Secretariat will prepare a critical review report for discussion in the Committee's next meeting. However, there are many details in the procedure that cannot be described in this short overview. The guidelines give detailed guidance on the whole procedure, including, how it will be decided if a pre-review or critical review will be held, how to prepare the review reports and on the basis of which criteria the Expert Committee should judge.