New drug controls and reduced hospital presentations due to novel psychoactive substances in Edinburgh

Janice Pettie, Allan Burt, Duleeka W. Knipe, Hazel Torrance, Margaret Dow, Karen Osinski, Robert Greig, Diletta Sabatini, Kate Easterford, James Dear, Michael Eddleston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
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Recreational use of novel psychoactive substance (NPS) has become increasingly common. We aimed to assess the association of national legislation and local trading standards activity with hospital presentations.


We established observational cohorts of patients with recreational drug toxicity presenting to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and dying with detectable recreational drugs in Edinburgh. We assessed associations with two temporary class drug‐orders (April 2015: methylphenidates, Nov 2015: methiopropamine), the Psychoactive Substances Act (June 2016), and trading standards forfeiture orders (October 2015).


The methylphenidate temporary class drug‐order was associated with rapid 46.7% (P = 0.002) and 21.0% (P = 0.003) reductions in presentations and admissions, respectively, for NPS drug toxicity, comparing 12 months before with 6 months after. The change was greatest for ethylphenidate toxicity (96.7% reduction in admissions, P < 0.001) that was partly offset by a tripling in synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist cases (P < 0.001) over the next 6 months. This increase reversed following trading standards activity removing all NPS drugs from local shops in October 2015, associated with 64.3% (P < 0.001) and 83.7% (P < 0.001) reductions in presentations and admissions, respectively, for all NPS drugs over the next 12 months. The effect was sustained and associated with a reduced postmortem detection of stimulant NPS drugs. The two interventions prevented an estimated 557 (95% confidence interval 327–934) NPS admissions during 2016, saving an estimated £303 030 (£177 901–508 133) in hospital costs.


We show here that drug legislation and trading standards activity may be associated with effective and sustained prevention. Widespread adoption of trading standards enforcement, together with focused legislation, may turn the tide against these highly‐damaging drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2303-2310
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
Issue number10
Early online date20 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • clinical epidemiology < epidemiology
  • clinical toxicology < toxicology
  • forensic toxicology < toxicology

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