Module 1: An introduction to club drugs and novel psychoactive substances

by Dr Dima Abdulrahim, Dr Owen Bowden-Jones and Dr Fredrik Johansson, on behalf of the NEPTUNE group


Published: September 2017


This module provides a general introduction to club drugs and novel psychoactive substances (NPS), which are now established as part of the changing patterns of drug use in the UK. Many people will use them with few health and social consequences, but some will suffer from adverse effects, which can be severe.


This module is aimed at all clinicians and other staff who may come into contact with adults who use these substances. NPS, in particular, pose a challenge to clinicians, not least because of the ever-increasing large numbers, type and availability of substances that have appeared over the last decade. Most are untested and their harms are still poorly understood. Club drug and NPS users may also be reluctant to engage with drug services, which they see as poorly equipped and poorly trained to help in a timely and effective manner.


The various club drugs and NPS can be classified as depressants, stimulants, synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs) and hallucinogens. This classification provides a framework to help clinicians understand the effects and harms of these substances, based on existing knowledge and experience.


The module will define club drugs and NPS, examine the problems they cause and present which clinical approaches work best. NEPTUNE has also produced other modules covering the treatment of acute (Modules 2 to 4) and chronic harms (Modules 5 to 7) in more detail; it is best to begin with this introductory module before progressing to the more specialist modules.


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