Novel (or new) psychoactive substances (NPS) are an ever-increasing group of synthetic, semi-synthetic or natural compounds, often advertised and sold as ‘legal’ alternatives to illicit drugs. Often misrepresented as ‘safe’ for recreational use, they can, however, prove as harmful as controlled drugs.
International experts convene in Swansea (UK) today to examine the latest scientific research in this rapidly-changing field. The Second international conference on novel psychoactive substances is hosted by the College of Human and Health Sciences at Swansea University, in collaboration with Hertfordshire University and the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA).The event follows on from the First international conference on novel psychoactive substances held in Budapest in March 2012. It is designed to be of interest to educators, health professionals, youth workers, policymakers and anyone involved in the prevention and treatment of drug addiction.
One of the defining features of NPS is that they are not controlled under the international drug treaties, although a number of countries have introduced measures to control some of these substances. While they may have similar effects to those caused by chemically-related controlled substances, they may also be associated with significantly different or unexpected effects. Today, members of the public can buy these substances easily online. Furthermore, when control measures are introduced, vendors rapidly react by promoting alternative new compounds and products.
The two-day conference aims to explore various scientific issues related to NPS, a subject about which still relatively little is known. The event will contribute, among others, to:
- providing accurate, evidence-based information on NPS;
- improving understanding of how NPS can be ‘designed’;
- exploring NPS by analogy with better studied substances;
- discussing both the acute and chronic clinical effects of NPS use;
- highlighting some of the issues with toxicological screening for NPS;
- improving knowledge of NPS pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics;
- improving understanding of treatment and management approaches for patients with levels of clinical and/or behavioural toxicity associated with NPS use; and
- informing future research in e-health, selective prevention and harm reduction, using technological tools.
Three EMCDDA experts will participate in the event as speakers and scientific advisers:
- Paul Griffiths, Scientific Director
- Dr Roumen Sedefov, Head of unit, Supply reduction and new trends
- Dr Ana Gallegos, Head of sector, Action on new drugs
See speaker profiles here: www.novelpsychoactivesubstances.org/keynotespeakers.
The EU early-warning system, operated by the EMCDDA and Europol, currently monitors over 300 new psychoactive substances. In 2012, 73 new substances were officially notified for the first time in the EU through the system, up from 49 in 2011, 41 in 2010 and 24 in 2009.
For more on the conference and online streaming, see www.novelpsychoactivesubstances.eu