University of Hertfordshire

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Early online date4 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPSs) are often sold online as “legal” and “safer” alternatives to International Controlled Drugs (ICDs) with captivating marketing strategies. Our aim was to review and summarize such strategies in terms of the appearance of the products, the brand names, and the latest trends in the illicit online marketplaces. Methods: Scientific data were searched in PsychInfo and Pubmed databases; results were integrated with an extensive monitoring of Internet (websites, online shops, chat rooms, fora, social networks) and media sources in nine languages (English, French, Farsi, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, and Chinese simplified/traditional) available from secure databases of the Global Public Health Intelligence Network. Results: Evolving strategies for the online diffusion and the retail of NPSs have been identified, including discounts and periodic offers on chosen products. Advertisements and new brand names have been designed to attract customers, especially young people. An increased number of retailers have been recorded as well as new Web platforms and privacy systems. Discussion: NPSs represent an unprecedented challenge in the field of public health with social, cultural, legal, and political implications.Web monitoring activities are essential for mapping the diffusion of NPSs and for supporting innovative Web-based prevention programmes.

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