Home > UNODC Early warning advisory (EWA) on new psychoactive substances (NPS).

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. (2023) UNODC Early warning advisory (EWA) on new psychoactive substances (NPS).

External website: https://www.unodc.org/LSS/Home/NPS

The EWA provides access to basic information on new psychoactive substances. Specific information on NPS including trend data, chemical details on individual substances, supporting documentation on laboratory analysis and legislative responses can be accessed by registered users only.

What are NPS?
The rapid emergence of a large number of NPS on the global drug market poses a significant risk to public health and a challenge to drug policy. Often, little is known about the adverse health effects and social harms of NPS, which pose a considerable challenge for prevention and treatment. The analysis and identification of a large number of chemically diverse substances present in drug markets at the same time is demanding. Monitoring, information sharing, early warning and risk awareness are essential to respond to this situation.

NPS have been known in the market by terms such as “legal highs”, “bath salts” and “research chemicals”. UNODC uses the term “new psychoactive substances (NPS)” which are defined as “substances of abuse, either in a pure form or a preparation, that are not controlled by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, but which may pose a public health threat”. The term “new” does not necessarily refer to new inventions — several NPS were first synthesized decades ago — but to substances that have recently become available on the market.

What are the risks of NPS?
The use of NPS is often linked to health problems. In general, side effects of NPS range from seizures to agitation, aggression, acute psychosis as well as potential development of dependence. NPS users have frequently been hospitalized with severe intoxications. Safety data on toxicity and carcinogenic potential of many NPS are not available or very limited, and information on long-term adverse effects or risks are still largely unknown. Purity and composition of products containing NPS are often not known, which places users at high risk as evidenced by hospital emergency admissions and deaths associated with NPS, often including cases of poly-substance use.

NPS Substance Groups

Item Type
Publication Type
Drug Type
New psychoactive substance
Intervention Type
Screening / Assessment
December 2023
Corporate Creators
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Place of Publication

Repository Staff Only: item control page