Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2022) Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 29 September 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2022). Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 24 August 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022 [cited 2022 Sep. 29]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2022, Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, viewed 29 September 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
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New (and emerging) psychoactive substances (NPS) may be defined as substances, whether in a pure form or preparation, where most are not controlled by international drug control conventions but which may pose a public health threat (UNODC 2022). NPS often mimic the effects of existing illicit substances (AIHW 2020). There are several main types of NPS, including:
Other names given to this group of drugs include research chemicals, analogues, legal highs, herbal highs, bath salts, novel psychoactive substances and synthetic drugs (NDARC 2016).
New (and emerging) psychoactive substances (NPS) often mimic the effects of existing illicit substances
The NPS market is highly dynamic, with fluctuations in the types of NPS available
The number of NPS border detections increased from 575 in 2018–19 to 609 in 2019–20
In 2019, 0.2% of the general population reported using synthetic cannabinoids in the previous 12 months
In 2019, only 0.1% of the general population reported recent use of other NPS (excluding synthetic cannabinoids)
People who use psychostimulant drugs such as ecstasy are more likely to use NPS than the general population
View the new (and emerging) psychoactive substances in Australia fact sheet >
From 2009–2021, NPS have been reported in 134 countries and territories in all regions of the world. Over 1,100 substances have been reported to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Early Warning Advisory, by Governments, laboratories and partner organisations (UNODC 2022).
The number of NPS found globally has been stabilising in recent years – 548 substances in 2020, with 77 of these newly identified psychoactive substances; a year later the number of NPS identified for the first time fell to 50 (UNODC 2022).
In Australia, the NPS market is highly dynamic with fluctuations in the types of NPS available (Burns et al. 2014).
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) collects national illicit drug seizure data annually from federal, state and territory police services, including the number and weight of seizures to inform the Illicit Drug Data Report (IDDR). According to the latest IDDR:
The use of synthetic cannabinoids in Australia is low.
The use of other NPS among the Australian general population is similarly low.
The population-weighted average consumption of ketamine has fluctuated since its introduction to the program in December 2020. In December 2021:
In 2021, the EDRS changed reporting of NPS to allow for comparability across different reporting methods. From 2021, the EDRS will report recent 6 month use of any NPS as ‘including plant based NPS’ and ‘excluding plant based NPS’.
In 2021, EDRS participants reporting recent 6 month use of:
The figure shows the proportion of people aged 14 and over who recently used synthetic cannabis and new and emerging psychoactive substances in 2013, 2016 and 2019. Recent use of both synthetic cannabis and new and emerging psychoactive substances declined between 2013 and 2019 (from 1.2% to 0.2% and 0.4% to 0.1%, respectively).
NPS comprises a category of substances that are fast-evolving, often diversified and typically volatile and may pose a threat to public health (UNODC 2022).
The use of NPS has been linked to health problems, including (but not limited to):
The laws surrounding NPS are complex and vary between Australian jurisdictions.
ACIC (Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission) 2018. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 4. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 30 August 2021.
ACIC 2019. Illicit Drug Data Report 2017–18. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 7 August 2019.
ACIC 2021. Illicit Drug Data Report 2019–2020. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 25 October 2021.
ACIC 2022. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 16. Canberra: ACIC, accessed 30 June 2022.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2020. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Drug statistics series no. 32. Cat. no. PHE 270. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 16 July 2020.
Burns L, Roxburgh A, Matthews A, Bruno R, Lenton S & Buskirk JV 2014. The rise of new psychoactive substance use in Australia. Drug Testing and Analysis 6:846–849.
Guerin, N. & White, V. (2020). ASSAD 2017 Statistics & Trends: Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, Over-the-counter Drugs, and Illicit Substances. Second Edition. Cancer Council Victoria. Viewed 21 July 2020.
NDARC (National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre) 2016. New (and emerging) psychoactive substances (NPS) fact sheet. Viewed 21 December 2017.
NSW Ministry of Health 2017. A quick guide to drugs & alcohol, 3rd edn. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
Sutherland R, Peacock A, Karlsson A, Uporova J, Price O, Chandrasena U, Swanton R, Gibbs D, Bruno R, Wilson Y, Dietze P, Hall C, Eddy S, Lenton S, Grigg J, Salom C, Daly C, Thomas N, Juckel J, Degenhardt L, & Farrell M (2021a). Australian Drug Trends 2021: Key Findings from the National Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) Interviews. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney.
UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) 2022. World Drug Report 2022. Vienna: UNODC, accessed 6 July 2022.
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