Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia., AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 06 December 2021
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). 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 September 2021, 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, 2021 [cited 2021 Dec. 6]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/alcohol/alcohol-tobacco-other-drugs-australia
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Alcohol, tobacco & other drugs in Australia, viewed 6 December 2021, 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 2021). 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
There was a decrease in NPS border detections, from 687 in 2017–18 to 575 in 2018–19
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 >
Currently, NPS have been reported in 125 countries and territories in all regions of the world. Over 1,000 substances have been reported to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Early Warning Advisory, by Governments, laboratories and partner organisations (UNODC 2020).
The number of NPS found globally has been stabilising in recent years – 541 substances in 2019, with 71 of these newly identified psychoactive substances, a decline from 213 newly identified substances in 2013 (UNODC 2021).
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 2020) recently reported:
The use of synthetic cannabinoids in Australia is low.
The use of other NPS among the Australian general population is similarly low.
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 comprise a wide range of chemical substances with unpredictable effects that can result in severe adverse health consequences, including death (UNODC 2021). Due to the wide variety of NPS and their ever-changing purity and composition, information on the long-term adverse effects or risks are still largely unknown (UNODC 2015).
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 2020. Illicit Drug Data Report 2018–19. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 21 October 2020.
ACIC 2021. National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program Report 13. Canberra: ACIC. Viewed 30 August 2021.
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.
Peacock A, Karlsson A, Uporova J, Price O, Chan R, Swanton R et al. 2020. Australian Drug Trends 2020: 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 Drug and Crime) 2015. UNODC early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. Viewed 21 December 2017.
UNODC 2020. Current NPS Threats Volume III. October 2020. Vienna: UNODC. Viewed 21 October 2020.
UNODC 2021. World Drug Report 2021. Vienna: UNODC. Viewed 17 August 2021.
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