New psychoactive substances (NPS) are rapidly proliferating. More than 600 new substances are being monitored, with over 75% detected in the last six years alone. The European Parliament is looking at legislation to better respond to the problem.
In recent years, the drug trade has gotten a lot more creative. 'Bath salts,' 'plant food,' 'incense': all code for new psychoactive substances or NPS. These contain chemical ingredients that are not illegal, but have similar effects as cocaine, cannabis or ecstasy. That's why they're also known as legal highs – successfully eluding legal crosshairs. You can unfortunately buy it on the internet, you can buy it in many shops. So it's not so easy to recognise. We don't know what kind of results and impact on the body those NPS could have. The EU is upping the ante against these new substances. Firstly, the term 'drug' will be redefined to include NPS. Criminal penalties will be imposed. More than 600 substances are being monitored. When a new substance enters the drug market, it is reported to the EU Early Warning System or EWS. 98 NPS were reported in 2015 and 66 in 2016. The dangers of a substance are assessed. A decision is then made on a possible ban, control measures and criminal penalties. New rules will simplify the process and improve information exchange. The aim? To ensure that the EU responds faster than these new drugs are spreading.