New for who?: Novelty and continuity in drug-related practices of people who use new psychoactive substances

Pickering, L. and Greenwood, S. (2019) New for who?: Novelty and continuity in drug-related practices of people who use new psychoactive substances. Contemporary Drug Problems, 46(4), pp. 323-344. (doi: 10.1177/0091450919885664)

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New (or Novel) Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are so named because they are characterized by a shared property of “newness.” In this article, we critically unpack NPS as a category and as a single object, bounded by a shared “newness”. In doing so, we examine whose ways of knowing are afforded epistemological authority and the harms that can emerge from an overemphasis on pharmacological properties at the expense of everyday practice. Through accounts of buying and selling NPS discussed in interviews with five “at risk” populations in Scotland, we examine the ways NPS use can be more usefully characterized by continuity with existing practices, relationships, and identities than by novelty. This raises the question that if everyday practices are not characterized by newness, what makes new psychoactive substances new? Comparing the discourses of pharmacologists and people who use them exposes contrasting claims about the “reality” of NPS: While pharmacologists describe their own ways of knowing as real, they often downgrade others as mere belief; those who use them do not do this. A common epistemological hierarchy is shared between these parties, where everyday practices (often characterized by continuity) are devalued relative to pharmacological ways of knowing that foreground novelty. When services have finite resources, this epistemological authority has significant consequences: When attention is paid to “newness” (in an attempt to gain mastery of an ever-shifting drug landscape), it is not being paid to the ways NPS are consumed within wider contexts characterized more by continuity with “traditional" drug use than divergence.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:The project from which this article derives, “Understanding the patterns of use, motives, and harms of new psychoactive substances in Scotland,” was funded by The Scottish Government.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Pickering, Dr Lucy and Greenwood, Dr Sharon
Authors: Pickering, L., and Greenwood, S.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Social Scientists working in Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:Contemporary Drug Problems
Publisher:SAGE Publications
ISSN (Online):2163-1808
Published Online:15 December 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Contemporary Drug Problems 46(4): 323-344
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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