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Effect of the UK Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 on episodes of toxicity related to new psychoactive substances as reported to the National Poisons Information Service. A time series analysis.

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Simon Hill, Professor Stephen Rushton, Professor Simon ThomasORCiD


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Background: There have been recent increases in use of new psychoactive substances (NPS) associated with acute health harms including hospital presentations due to toxicity and increasing numbers of deaths. In response, the UK Government enacted generic legislation on 26th May 2016 (the Psychoactive Substances Act) making it an offence to produce, possess with intent to supply, supply, import or export, or possess within a custodial setting a psychoactive substance. We studied the impact of this Act on monthly frequency of enquiries made by health professionals to the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) about NPS. We also studied five commonly used 'conventional' drugs of misuse that had been controlled prior to January 2009.Method: Anonymised clinical enquiries to the NPIS and accesses to the poisons information database TOXBASE were reviewed retrospectively from January 2009 to December 2018 to ascertain the trends in reported toxicity for NPS, cocaine, heroin, cannabis, amphetamines and MDMA. Data were analysed using interrupted time series analysis with the date of the PSA used as an independent predictor.Results: Over the period of study there were 3,866 NPIS telephone enquiries and 79,271 TOXBASE user accesses made by UK health professionals concerning NPS. There were increases in monthly TOXBASE accesses (t = 7.408, P < 0.0001) and telephone enquiries (t = 4.74, P < 0.001) over the pre-specified period January 2009 to May 2016. Comparing the period after the PSA with that before, there were significant reductions in TOXBASE accesses (t = -3.327, P < 0.001) and telephone enquiries (t = -6.97, P < 0.001), although reductions started before May 2016. There were no significant changes for the five conventional drugs. There were significant reductions in telephone enquiries (t = -3.418, P < 0.001) and non-significant reductions in TOXBASE accesses (t = -1.713, P = 0.089) for NPS between June 2016 and December 2018. Increases in telephone enquiries for cocaine and reductions TOXBASE accesses for MDMA were also observed over that period.Conclusions: There have been significant recent reductions in NPIS enquiry activity relating to NPS; although these began before enactment of the PSA in May 2016.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Al Banaa I, Hawkins L, Hill SL, Lupton DJ, Jackson G, Sandilands EA, Bradberry SM, Thompson JP, Rushton S, Thomas SHL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Drug Policy

Year: 2020

Volume: 77

Print publication date: 02/03/2020

Online publication date: 04/02/2020

Acceptance date: 24/12/2019

ISSN (print): 0955-3959

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102672


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