What is New Psychoactive Substances (NSP)?

New psychoactive substances (NSP) are a range of drugs that have been designed to mimic established illicit drugs, such as cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and LSD.

Manufacturers of these drugs develop a new chemical to replace those that are banned, which means that the structure of the chemical of the drugs is constantly changing to try to stay away from laws.

New psychoactive substances (NSP) are being developed at the unprecedented rate. As of December 2015, 643 new psychoactive substances were registered in the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Early Warning Advisory NSP.

In 2015, the emergence of 75 substances was reported for the first time. Out of these, the majority of the substances belong to synthetic cannabinoids (21), synthetic cathinone (20) and phenethylamines (9). In addition, another 21 substances were reported for the first time in 2015, that are structurally diverse and do not fit any of mentioned groups.

Other names 

Synthetic drugs, legal highs, herbal highs, party pills, the synthetic cocaine, synthetic cannabis, herbal ecstasy, NBOMes, bath salt, plant fertiliser, herbal incense, room deodorizers, aphrodisiac tea, social tonic, new and emerging drugs (NEDs), drug analogues and research chemicals. These products can sometimes be marked ‘not for human consumption.

Also, know in local terms

Spice, K2, Bath Salts, Kronic, Bromo- Dragonfly

What we need to know?

One of the biggest misconceptions about NPS. Even though they are sometimes advertised as legal, this doesn’t mean they are safe Given how rapidly new drugs are emerging, it is difficult to know the common effects of this drugs and what dose causes what effects.

NPS do not typically come with a recommended dosage printed on the label. And in Singapore, NPS are considered the substance of abuse either in pure form or a preparation and they are not controlled by the international drug convention, given the chemical in these drugs are constantly changing it could pose a public health threat.

Party pills and pellets

Party pills and pellets are sometimes marketed as a natural supplement that increases energy and moods, with effects similar to ecstasy and amphetamines. However, this product can contain man-made chemicals and the label often doesn’t list the ingredients correctly. 5

Let’s check the Ingredients for NPS

  • Herbal high were primarily man-made chemicals – BZP (benzylpiperazine) and TFFMP (trifluoromethyl-phenylpiperazine). [ other ingredients included are piper nigrum, phenylalanine, tryptophan and tyrosine]
  • New BZP-free herbal highs commonly list their ingredients as caffeine, octopamine, synephrine (Citrus Aurantium extract) and geranimine (geranium extract), but research on them has demonstrated they are usually are made with a synthetic chemical, which is cheaper.
  • Synthetic cannabis is produced by a man-made chemical that creates the similar effects to delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the active ingredient in cannabis. However, a report suggests it also produce additional negative effects. These powdered chemicals are mixed with solvents and added to dried herbs.
  • Research chemical is marketed as pure psychoactive drugs. Similar to other NPS, research has not been conducted on they affects on humans. Many of the active ingredients in herbal high/party pills and synthetic cannabis can be considered research chemical. These substances often belong to groups such as cathinone, phenethylamines and tryptamines. Research chemical usually comes as a white powdered, crystals, capsules and on blotter tab.

Your health and safety 

There is no safe level of drugs use. Use of any drugs always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking NSP and consider the following;

  • Negative side-effects and overdose are more likely when NPS are taken in combination with alcohol.
  • It’s very hard to know the effects of NPS, even if they’ve been taken before, as these products are constantly changing. Taking a low dose could help determine the effects and the strength of the drug. Activities like driving, swimming and operating machinery while under influences should then be avoided.
  • Many NPS contain a range of filler and cutting agent that could lead to health problems, particular if injected.
  • Given Caffeine is contained in many products, sometimes in high quantities, additional caffeine consumption (i.e through coffee) could lead to overdose.
  • Most deaths from these drugs, such as suicides, have involved in mental conditions, so people with these conditions could be more at risk of harm.
  • The chemicals in some products might be cardiotoxic, lead to hypertension, or cause fast/irregular heartbeats. They can, therefore,  cause health problem particularly amongst older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Triple zero (000) should be called immediately if someone is experiencing negative cause by NPS. Ambulance officers don’t have to be involved.

Singapore views on NPS

New psychoactive substance (NPS) were listed as Class A controlled drugs in the First Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act on 1 MAY 2014.

  • Penalities- for possession or consumption of NPS, up to ten years imprisonment, or SGD$ 20,000 of fine, or BOTH.
  • Illegal traffic, manufacture, import or export of NPS – minimum of 5 years of imprisonment with 5 strokes of the cane.
  • Re-offenders – those found supplying to young and vulnerable, or recruiting these persons to commit a drug offence will be liable for enhanced punishment for drug trafficking.


  1.  Bright, S. (2013, April). Not for human consumption: new and emerging drugs in Australia. Prevention Research.
  2.  United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2016). World Drug Report 2016
  3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2013). Notes from the Field: Severe illness associated with reported use of synthetic marijuana.
  4. National Cannabis Information Centre (2013). What are cannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoids?

Central Narcotic Bureau (CNB), controlled substances in Singapore, drugs and inhalant, last updated website on Friday, 16 September 2016.

Australia Drug Foundation, preventing harm in Australia, drugs facts and resources about drugs and alcohol.Last updated: May 25, 2017 




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