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New psychoactive substances in Australia: patterns and characteristics of use, adverse effects, and interventions to reduce harm

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 16:29 authored by Sutherland, R, Allsop, S, Amy PeacockAmy Peacock

Purpose of review: To summarize the most recent peer-review literature on new psychoactive substances (NPS) within Australia.

Recent findings: NPS use among the general Australian population is low, yet more pervasive among specific subpopulations. There is considerable heterogeneity among people who use NPS, however, overall, they are not unique from those who use more established illicit drugs. NPS have been shown to be highly adulterated, used as contaminants, variable in dose, and changeable as to the specific substances available over time. Further, analyses of coroners’ cases highlight the importance of consumer understanding of NPS effects, particularly where they differ substantially to their more traditional illicit drug counterparts (e.g., synthetic vs. plant cannabinoids). One study posited that legislative approaches to NPS have been (partially) effective in reducing harms, and there are new systems being established to identify NPS-related health harms.

Summary: There have been few studies recently published on NPS in Australia (n ¼ 17), however, findings mostly align with the international literature with respect to the rapidly changing nature of the NPS market, the use of NPS as adulterants, and associated harms. These themes highlight the need for proactive, novel approaches to rapidly identify, and respond to emerging drugs of concern.


Publication title

Current Opinion in Psychiatry










School of Psychological Sciences


Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Ltd.

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2020 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in psychology

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