Improving the help and support provided to people who take new psychoactive substances ('legal highs')

E. H. Fletcher (Lead / Corresponding author), S. M. Tasker, P. Easton, L. Denvir

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: There are over 450 new psychoactive substances (NPS) circulating in Europe. In 2013, NPS were found to be a potential contributor to 60 drug deaths in Scotland. However, beyond these statistics, we know very little about the public health impact of NPS.

    Methods: We used mixed methods to inform a needs assessment for Tayside: (i) routine data analysis, (ii) anonymous online survey and (iii) discussions with professionals and local community groups with either first-hand experience of NPS or knowledge of others who had taken NPS.

    Results: Routine data are limited. Six hundred and eighty-seven people responded to the survey, 401 with direct or indirect experience of NPS. NPS were most commonly obtained from shops (n = 173) or friends (n = 110). Respondents replied with 94 different names for NPS taken. One hundred and nine respondents reported instances where emergency medical help for NPS use had been required. Qualitative survey answers and discussions highlighted the adverse impact NPS can have on mental health and well-being in particular.

    Conclusions: NPS are varied, easily accessible and can cause significant harm. We recommend that there should be improved data collection, raised awareness, restricted access, improved information sharing around NPS and the development, monitoring and evaluation of NPS-specific support delivered by services.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e489-e495
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Public Health
    Issue number4
    Early online date29 Dec 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


    • New psychoactive substances
    • Public health


    Dive into the research topics of 'Improving the help and support provided to people who take new psychoactive substances ('legal highs')'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this