The latest developments in monitoring and responding to new psychoactive substances (NPS/'new drugs') were discussed at the 15th annual meeting of the Reitox Early Warning System (EWS) network, held in Lisbon from 8–9 June.
The meeting opened with a summary of the findings of the 2014 EMCDDA–Europol report on the implementation of Council Decision 2005/87/JHA. The report highlights that the growth of the market in new psychoactive substances will continue to pose challenges for public health and drug policy over the next few years, particularly relating to the speed at which NPS appear (two substances every week), their open sale, and the lack of information on their effects and harms. Europol, the European Medicines Agency, the European Commission as well as the national EWS representatives provided updates on the NPS phenomenon. The UNODC provided an international perspective, highlighting the need to react to NPS at global level when necessary, in proportion to their risk to health and market availability.
Three sessions followed on issues of topical relevance. The ‘European NPS market’ session examined the complex, dynamic nature of the NPS market and the increasing connection with the illicit drugs market. ‘Toxicovigilance: identifying, understanding and responding to serious adverse events’ explored the role of poison centres in spotting emerging problems with NPS and included a discussion of some potent new fentanyls recently emerging in the EU and representing cause for some concern. The final session was dedicated to ‘Public health alerts’, with the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden presenting their national systems for handling these. A discussion followed on how this key element of the EWS can be developed to assist the Member States in responding to rapidly emerging problems associated with NPS.