New psychoactive substances (previously known as ‘legal highs’) pose potentially serious risks to public health. The number of new substances identified in recent years has increased rapidly, with greater availability over the internet.
Hospital admissions for poisoning by psychostimulants with abuse potential have increased by 44% in England and Wales from the period 2009–10 to 2014–15.1 At present, evidence is lacking about the long-term harms to health associated with use of such illicit substances, and more monitoring in this area is needed.
Use of these substances is commonly accompanied by use of licensed medicines. This project will enable us to collaborate more closely with Public Health England on safety issues that affect licensed medicines and illicit drugs.
Reporting of harm
A pilot reporting website, the Report Illicit Drug Reaction form, will be available for 1 year for healthcare professionals across the UK who come into contact with patients experiencing harm associated with use of illicit drugs, particularly new psychoactive substances. The pilot aims to better collect data on harms from illicit drug use, to support provision of clinical guidance to professionals.
The form is intended to be used by health professionals who work in emergency departments, general practice, drug treatment services, sexual health services, mental health services, and any other services who come into contact with people who have developed acute or chronic problems associated with use of new psychoactive substances.
The scheme is available for healthcare professionals throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The reporting site is modelled on our Yellow Card website, with the aim of offering a simple reporting process with which many Yellow Card reporters may be familiar. If you are a registered user of Yellow Card, you can even log in with these details to access all your incident reports in the same place.
Suspected adverse drug reactions to licensed medicines should continue to be reported through the Yellow Card website. Suspected interactions between licensed medicines and illicit drugs should also be reported via Yellow Card.
Article citation: Drug Safety Update volume 10 issue 8, March 2017: 2.
Health and Social Care Information Centre. Hospital admissions for poisoning by illicit drugs up by more than 50 per cent in a decade, July 2016. ↩