Exploration of the use of new psychoactive substances by individuals in treatment for substance misuse in the UK.

Rosalind Gittins, Amira Guirguis, Fabrizio Schifano, Ian Maidment

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Substance misuse services need to meet the growing demand and needs of individuals using new psychoactive substances (NPS). A review of the literature identified a paucity of research regarding NPS use by these individuals and UK guidelines outline the need for locally tailored strategies. The purpose of this qualitative study was to identify and explore key themes in relation to the use of NPS by individuals receiving community treatment for their substance use. Electronic records identified demographics and semi-structured interviews were undertaken. A thematic analysis of transcripts identified a variety of substance use histories; 50% were prescribed opiate substitutes and 25% used NPS as a primary substance. All were males, age range 26–59 years (SD = 9), who predominantly smoked cannabinoids and snorted/injected stimulant NPS. The type of NPS used was determined by affordability, availability, side-effect profile and desired effects (physical and psychological: 25% reported weight loss as motivation for their use). Poly-pharmacy, supplementation and displacement of other drugs were prevalent. In conclusion, NPS use and associated experiences vary widely among people receiving substance use treatment. Development of effective recovery pathways should be tailored to individuals, and include harm reduction strategies, psychosocial interventions, and effective signposting. Services should be vigilant for NPS use, “on top” use and diversion of prescriptions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number58
Number of pages20
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2018


  • Cannabinoids
  • Harm reduction
  • New psychoactive substances
  • Psychosocial interventions
  • Stimulants
  • Substance misuse services
  • Substance use
  • Substance use treatment


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