Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey 2015: new psychoactive substances

Factsheet setting out information on teenagers' use of new psychoactive substances, also known as 'legal highs'.

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Scottish Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) 2015 : Five Key Facts About New Psychoactive Substances

1. New Psychoactive Substances ( NPS), sometimes misleadingly known as 'legal highs', are drugs which are designed to replicate the effects of illegal substances (and some have become classed as illegal themselves). The 2015 SALSUS data shows the use of NPS among 15 year olds is low compared with cannabis use - and is comparable with the use of ecstasy and cocaine.

Type of drug used in the last month and ever, among 15 year olds

2. 13% of 15 year olds reported that they had ever been offered some form of NPS. This compares with 37% who had been offered cannabis, 17% who had been offered ecstasy and 11% who had been offered cocaine.

3. Among those who had used NPS in the previous month, the most popular NPS were synthetic cannabis (72% of pupils who had used an NPS in the previous month had taken it) and mephedrone (71% had taken it). But around half (48-54%) had taken each of the other categories of NPS.

Type of NPS used in the last month, among 15 year olds who had used once in the previous month

4. As well as being more likely to have taken drugs overall, boys were also more likely than girls to have taken an NPS: 18% of 15 year old boys who had taken drugs in the past month had taken an NPS, compared with 9% of girls.

5. There was no clear pattern of NPS use in terms of area deprivation.

NPS use in the last month, among 15 year olds who had used drugs in the past month, by gender

SALSUS collects information on smoking, drinking, drug use and other lifestyle factors from young people all over Scotland. It is part of an important and long established series of national surveys which allow comparisons to be made between over time, between different parts of Scotland and between Scotland and other countries. 25,304 pupils participated in the 2015 wave. More information is available at:


Email: Julie Guy

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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