Vulnerable groups in Europe experiencing high levels of harm through use of New Psychoactive Substances

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published a new rapid communication report on high-risk drug use and new psychoactive substances (NPS) across Europe, including Scotland.

The report, compiled from results of an EMCDDA trendspotter survey and a literature review, provides a first look at the emergence of more problematic forms of use of NPS among a range of demographic groups, including opioid and amphetamine injectors, prisoners, people experiencing homelessness and men who have sex with men.

It explores, in particular, the use of synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids, benzodiazepines and new synthetic opioids, as well as related harms and responses.

The report utilises Scottish data and experiences from ‘Understanding the Patterns of Use, Motives and Harms of New Psychoactive Substances in Scotland’, a Scottish Drugs Forum report published in November 2016 on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The EMCDDA report found that problem use of NPS in Europe is currently linked with relatively small numbers of users but high associated levels of harm. It confirms and further maps the documented use of synthetic cathinones by pockets of opioid injectors and among people who partake in chemsex, while bringing to light new trends in synthetic cannabinoid use among prisoners in over a third of EU countries as well as developments among marginalised communities.

It remains unclear, however, how and why synthetic cannabinoids are becoming established as the cheapest and strongest indiscriminate intoxicants in some vulnerable social groups. Questions also remain about how this trend might play out in the longer term, and which of those NPS now present on the market will remain and become established.

The report also states that recent indications that NPS production may now be taking place in Europe are potentially a game changer, and provide strong motivation to keep a close watch on emerging trends in this rapidly evolving area.

Click here to view the EMCDDA Rapid Communication Report on High-Risk Drug Use and New Psychoactive Substances

Click here to download ‘Understanding the Patterns of Use, Motives and Harms of New Psychoactive Substances in Scotland’