25 years of early warning and response to new psychoactive substances in Europe

This year, the EU Early Warning System (EWS) on new psychoactive substances (NPS) celebrates its 25th anniversary. Operated by the EMCDDA, in close cooperation with Europol and partners, it was the first regional early-warning mechanism set up to monitor and respond to uncontrolled new drugs. The system ensures that the EU and its Member States have state-of-the-art information on NPS and the threats they pose to Europe; in order to protect public health and inform policymaking. This page will be regularly updated throughout the anniversry as more materials become available.


graphic celebrating 25 year of the EU Early warning system, monitoring new psychoactive substances


The globalisation of drug markets and technological developments have led to an increase in the number, type and availability of new drugs. In 2021, 52 NPS were reported for the first time in Europe through the system, bringing the total number monitored by the EMCDDA to 884. NPS are often sold as ‘legal’ replacements for controlled drugs as they mimic the effects of substances such as heroin, cannabis, cocaine and 'ecstasy'.

Over the last 25 years, the new drugs market has undergone significant change, with more potent and toxic substances putting consumers at greater risk. In the past five years alone, the EWS has identified serious harms linked to 14 new substances, which has led to controls at EU level. It is essential that Europe continues to strengthen its early warning on NPS in order to detect cross-border health threats, communicate risks and enhance its preparedness and response.

25 years celebration campaign material

You can find below a list of all currently available materials related to the 25 years celebration.


25 years of early warning and response in Europe — an update from the EU Early Warning System

This update from the EU Early Warning System overviews the NPS situation in Europe in 2020-2021 and highlights emerging threats to support early warning, preparedness planning and response measures. In addition, it reflects on the changes and the lessons learned from 25 years of monitoring NPS in Europe.
Download this publication

Poster: 25 years of Early Warning System (timeline)

Take a journey through some of the key events over the last 25 years of monitoring new psychoactive substances in Europe.


Download a high resolution version of the timeline (PDF) 

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