New psychoactive substances: high-risk use in marginalised populations

The use of new psychoactive substances by high-risk drug users was explored by the EMCDDA in 2016. The study found that while consumption levels were low overall in Europe, patterns of use were linked to multiple problems. A majority of European countries (22) reported some level of use of new psychoactive substances among high-risk user groups, although more extensive use among opioid and stimulant injectors was limited to Hungary and parts of the United Kingdom. The injection of synthetic cathinones was reported in half (15) of countries, with the substance used often varying by country; for example, mephedrone in the United Kingdom, alpha-PVP in Finland, pentedrone in Hungary and 3-MMC in Slovenia. The smoking of synthetic cannabinoids in marginalised populations, including among homeless people and prisoners, is an emerging problem identified in around two thirds of European countries.

Few people currently enter treatment in Europe for problems associated with use of new psychoactive substances, although under-reporting in this area is likely. In 2015, around 3 200 clients, or less than 1 % of those entering specialised drug treatment in Europe, reported problems related to these substances. In the United Kingdom, around 1 500 treatment entrants (or around 1 % of all drug clients) reported primary use of synthetic cathinones; Hungary and Romania also report relatively high numbers of new psychoactive substance users entering drug treatment.