Clinical guidance for the management of New Psychoactive Substances by the Neptune project

The Neptune project has launched clinical guidance for the management of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), based on a systematic review of the evidence and clinical consensus with the support of a multi-disciplinary group of experts.

The following has been uploaded to their Best practice portal :

Best practice in drug interventions

New psychoactive drugs

A new psychoactive substance (or NPS) is a narcotic or psychotropic drug that is not controlled by existing international conventions but that may pose a significant public health threat.

thumbs up symbol What works?

New psychoactive substances are an emerging topic. Research is ongoing in this area and we currently lack evidence on what works best.

  • green tick mark Generally, prevention interventions which stress skills and coping strategies are effective, independently of the substance concerned
  • green tick mark Harm reduction strategies in nightlife settings which have proved to be effective for alcohol may also be effective for new psychoactive substances

question mark symbol What’s unclear?

Many research gaps still need to be filled in order to inform future policy responses to new psychoactive substances (Ferri et al., 2014):

  • A comprehensive insight on the scale and patterns of new psychoactive substance use
  • A better understanding of the new psychoactive substances market
  • Research into the short- and long-term consequences of new psychoactive substance use
  • Evidence of specific and/or appropriate treatment options for new psychoactive substance users
  • Outcome evaluations of current interventions and consideration of possible new approaches

thumbs down symbol What doesn’t work?

  • New psychoactive substances are an emerging topic. Research is ongoing in this area and we currently lack evidence on what works best.

What can we do in the meantime?

Until today, at both European and international level countries have responded to the problem through consumer protection and law enforcement measures and namely with a range of different innovative legal responses.

Demand reduction initiatives are currently being implemented in Europe (e.g. specialist clinics for users of club drugs in the UK), yet we will need to wait for outcome evaluations of such initiatives before promoting them as European best practice. Standards for drug prevention interventions in recreational settings already exist and can be used as a reference point for new psychoactive substance prevention programmes.

Useful links

  1. Guidance on the clinical management of acute and chronic harms of club drugs and novel psychoactive substance – NEPTUNE Project (2015)
  2. Euro-DEN project – Guidelines on when to call the Emergency Services 112 for unwell recreational drug users
  3. Harms associated with new psychoactive drugs – EMCDDA European Drug Report 2014
  4. EMCDDA action on new drug
  5. Evidence review — New Psychoactive Substances – Evidence Review (2014), Scottish Government Social Research


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