New PsychoactIve Substances - Evidence Review

This paper summarises the key information currently available on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and evidence gaps. Data on Scotland is presented in the context of UK and international evidence.

1 Introduction

1.1 At a national event on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) on 17 April 2013, the Scottish Government heard from police, health, community and youth organisations about the challenges being posed by these new drugs. A major challenge was the need for better information and evidence on NPS, and as a first step, this paper summarises the key information that is currently available (up to July 2014) and evidence gaps. The paper is structured around the main themes that emerged from the workshop - demand/ prevalence of use, supply, impact/ harms, responses (enforcement, prevention, and treatment); and evidence gaps. In each section, information on what we know about NPS in Scotland is set in the context of information from the rest of the UK and internationally.

1.2 It is important to note that the review does not purport to provide a comprehensive and definitive account of the evidence on NPS, but rather constitutes a collation of the material which could be identified and accessed within a relatively short space of time. It is hoped that the work will provide a foundation upon which new and existing research evidence may be added as it becomes available or is identified in the future.


1.3 Historically, new psychoactive substances were often referred to as 'designer drugs' and 'new synthetic drugs' although today 'legal highs' and 'new drugs' are the terms used more often. The UK Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) defines NPS as: "psychoactive drugs which are not prohibited by the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and which people are seeking for intoxicant use". Although not scheduled under the UN drug control conventions, a number of the NPS mentioned in this paper are now controlled in the UK (e.g. mephedrone, BZP, NBOMe and Benzofury).


Email: Fiona Fraser

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