New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) - A Challenge for the Addiction Treatment Services

Norbert Scherbaum, F. Schifano, Udo Bonnet

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Over the last few years, hundreds of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been identified in Europe. Apart from some herbal compounds, NPS mainly include synthetic cannabinoids and a range of new synthetic stimulants (e. g., cathinones). Synthetic NPS are often developed whilst modifying the basic chemical (e. g., phenethylamine or tryptamine) structure. Although the pharmacology and toxicology of most NPS are hardly known, they are being offered, especially online, as bath salts, as incense mixtures, or under other misleading labels. In addition, NPS are advertised as legal highs, suggesting that, in contrast to substances regulated by the national laws, trading with NPS is legal. Although only little is known about the prevalence of NPS use, some of these molecules may be associated with a range of severe adverse reactions. Indeed, different from cannabis, synthetic cannabinoid users may present with epileptic seizures, loss of consciousness, and a range of persisting psychopathological disorders. Future studies should inform better-tailored management strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-122
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • cathinones
  • internet
  • narcotics law
  • new psychoactive substances
  • synthetic cannabinoids


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