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Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction

New Psychoactive Substances

In addition to the known psychoactive substances, new psychoactive substances (NPS) are emerging on a weekly basis, with 73 new substances being discovered in 2012 (EMBDD, 2013). These substances are herbs, plant extracts or new synthetic chemicals that are used as an alternative to illegal drugs such as Ecstasy or cocaine. Because of their novelty, these substances are not yet subject to the narcotics law. In Switzerland, the revision of the narcotics law introduced the “e” list, which prohibits NPS that are not associated with a clear medical benefit. In most cases, many of the NPS have not been tested for toxicity and users do not know the exact composition of the NPS. The dose and effect are difficult to estimate as NPS are mainly obtained from the internet and often have “attractive” fantasy names. Deaths are also sometimes associated with NPS (e.g. 5-IT, 4-MA). The ISGF can make statements and conclusion on the occurrence of NPS in Switzerland, Through surveying recreational drug users on their consumption patterns and by using additional modules developed specifically for NPS users. The consumption of NPS in Switzerland is comparatively low, a small proportion of Swiss recreational users report experiences with NPS. 

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