Understanding the patterns of use, motives, and harms of New Psychoactive Substances in Scotland

McLeod, K., Pickering, L., Gannon, M., Greenwood, S. , Liddell, D., Smith, A., Johnstone, L. and Burton, G. (2016) Understanding the patterns of use, motives, and harms of New Psychoactive Substances in Scotland. Technical Report. Scottish Government, Edinburgh.

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Publisher's URL: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/11/8042

Abstract

Background: New or Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) imitate the effects of illegal drugs and are commonly (although misleadingly) referred to as "legal highs‟. Over the last decade the use of NPS has expanded in Scotland. This report presents results of mixed methods research in NPS use among five key target populations: vulnerable young people, people in contact with mental health services, people affected by homelessness, people who inject drugs (PWID) and men who have sex with men (MSM). Methods: Qualitative interviews were undertaken with 33 people who had taken NPS. Over half of participants belonged to two or more target groups. Four focus groups were run with 42 front line staff working with people who use NPS across Scotland. Key themes from qualitative analysis of the interviews and focus groups were used to inform the design of two surveys: one for service users, and one for staff. 424 service users and 184 front line workers completed the surveys. Findings: Local estimates for NPS use among people who inject drugs were derived in two parts of Scotland from data from injecting equipment providers. From analysis of existing needle exchange data for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) and NHS Lothian, we estimate that there are 190 (CI 114-265) injecting NPS users in NHS GGC and a further 673 (CI 562-784) NPS injectors in the NHS Lothian area. Use of NPS was widespread in the survey sample with 59% (n=252) of respondents reporting that they had ever used NPS. Poly-substance use amongst the sample was very high. Only one person reported being a sole NPS user, with 99% (n=251) of NPS users also reporting traditional drug use. The most commonly used NPS were synthetic cannabinoids (41%, n=104) and benzodiazepine-type NPS (41%, n=102), while approximately one fifth reported taking stimulant-type NPS (21%, n=53) and mephedrone (19%, n=48). There were a wide range of reasons reported for people using NPS. The key motives related to ease of access, curiosity and influence of peers, as well as pleasure, price and potency. Legal status did not appear to be a key motivator for use. The surveys identified multiple harms associated with the consequences of using NPS. The negative consequences of use can broadly be described in terms of mental and physical health harms and social harms. Positive effects were identified by some. This was generally when under the influence of NPS, and negative after effects were often described. Use of NPS by MSM for chemsex saw half of respondents report no negative after effects for mental health (n=15/29) or social consequences (n=15/29). Those who reported benzodiazepine-type NPS use also identified positive effects on managing sleep and mental health, with 91% (n=52) reporting that use helped them sleep and 81% (n=47) stating that use reduced their anxiety.

Item Type:Research Reports or Papers (Technical Report)
Keywords:New Psychoactive Substances, drugs, addiction, recovery, Scotland.
Status:Published
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy and Gannon, Ms Maria and Greenwood, Miss Sharon
Authors: McLeod, K., Pickering, L., Gannon, M., Greenwood, S., Liddell, D., Smith, A., Johnstone, L., and Burton, G.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Publisher:Scottish Government
ISBN:9781786526052
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 Crown Copyright
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under an Open Government license

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