New psychoactive substances are so diverse that they cannot be controlled by international law. Many countries, including Australia, have experienced considerable difficulty responding to the steadily increasing number of new psychoactive substances arriving on the black market. In the European Union, 41 new substances were identified in 2010, 49 in 2011 and 73 in 2012. Over 200 new psychoactive substances have been identified in the European Union since 2005. The number of new psychoactive substances available in Australia, prevalence of current use and harms caused by these drugs are not known.

Countries race to identify and ban new substances even though this is expensive and ultimately futile. As soon as one new psychoactive substance is banned, the next appears. While demand for psychoactive substances remains strong, there will always be a supply. Globalisation, the internet and social media have increased the already considerable difficulty of interrupting supply of these drugs in the face of continuing strong demand. But the development of these new psychoactive drugs is a direct consequence of the prohibition of other drugs.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill, passed by the New Zealand Parliament on 11 July 2013, aimed to “protect New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, from the harm caused by untested drugs and an unregulated market”.

Keep up-to-date with drug policy developments by subscribing to the IDPC Monthly Alert