Purpose of review
To summarize the most recent peer-review literature on new psychoactive substances (NPS) within Australia.
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.
There have been few studies recently published on NPS in Australia (n = 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.