New and emerging psychoactive substances
Market assessment: MEDIUM with a stable market trend.
What are they?
The term, “new and emerging psychoactive substances” (NPS) describes the vast range of substances designed to mimic the effects of traditional illicit drugs (such as LSD, amphetamines, ecstasy, cocaine, cannabis). These substances are also called novel substances, drug analogues, mimetics, designer drugs, synthetics, research chemicals, legal highs and herbal highs. In April 2013, Queensland’s Drugs Misuse Act 1986 was amended to include all substances that are intended to have the same effect as a scheduled dangerous drug.
What do they look like?
NPS are sold in various forms, including pills, capsules, powder, sprays, blotter tabs and leaf material (cannabimimetics). They are packaged in various forms and under various brand names. They are also frequently mislabelled as plant food, research chemicals and bath salts, with a notation that the product is “not for human consumption”. The declared ingredients also sometimes differ from the actual composition. In some cases, NPS pills and blotter tablets bear logos and patterns to traditional illicit drugs.
The NPS market in Queensland
- The NPS market remains volatile and subject to rapid changes depending on availability of traditional illicit drugs.
- Although the demand for NPS has decreased, these substances continue to be prevalent in central and northern areas of the state due to the decreased availability of traditional illicit drugs.
- NPS continue to be falsely marketed as legal highs, research chemicals and herbal tea, although community awareness about the illegal status of these substances has increased.
- Young user groups continue to be identified as consumers of NPS.
- Demand for cannabimimetics has decreased, but the popularity of hallucinogenic-type NPS continues to increase.
- NPS with hallucinogenic effects are frequently detected in pills marketed as MDMA.
Organised crime presence
- Although there have been examples of organised crime involvement in the NPS market in Queensland, this has decreased in recent years.
- The NPS market is largely made up of personal users importing small to medium quantities for personal use, and entrepreneurial suppliers importing larger quantities and onselling for profit.
What you should know
Adverse health impacts and fatalities associated with NPS use are well documented in the media.
- In January 2015, two males in Mackay died shortly after consuming synthetic cannabis. The men died in separate incidents within days of each other.
- There have been several anecdotal reports of people (particularly younger users) presenting to hospital for treatment after consuming an NPS.
- The high potency of NPS and the low fatal-to-active dosage ratio of some NPS is a particular health risk associated with these substances.