4th year Graduate Medical Student at King’s College London. Prior to studying medicine I worked in the HIV and Sexual Health sector. My research interests centre around addictions, infectious diseases and public health, with a particular interest in the impact of Government policy on health outcomes. I hope to apply for an Academic Foundation Program and intend to continue research into novel psychoactive and fentanyl mortality.
Deaths from Novel Psychoactive Substances: Evaluating the Impact of the Psychoactive Substances Act (2016). May 2013 – May 2019
Aims: To evaluate the impact of the Psychoactive Substances Act, 2016 (PSA) on trends in drug-related deaths (DRDs) from Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) reported to the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (NPSAD) from England.
Methods: Case reports were extracted from NPSAD where known NPS were found at post-mortem and/or implicated where death had occurred in the period 3 years pre- and post-implementation of the 2016 PSA (26th May 2016). Cases were analysed and compared against non-NPS related deaths reported to NPSAD over the same time period.
Results: NPS were found at post-mortem and/or implicated in 383 deaths between 26th May 2013 and 25th May 2019. 170 (44.4%) deaths occurred before the PSA and 213 (55.6%) deaths after, indicating a 11.2% post-PSA increase. DRDs from drugs like cocaine, controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1971 (MDA) have also risen since 2016. NPS originally PSA controlled and subsequently specifically MDA controlled were responsible for the greatest proportion (91.5% cases, n=195) of post-PSA deaths. Deaths from synthetic cannabinoids constituted the greatest proportion of DRDs (40.7%). Decedents were more frequently male and resided in the most deprived areas of the UK at time of death.
Conclusions: There has been an overall rise in NPS deaths since the introduction of the PSA. Deaths from synthetic cannabinoids have risen by the greatest proportion compared with other types of NPS. The rise in DRDs from classic drugs like cocaine may have resulted from users displacing newly illegal NPS with more established MDA controlled drugs.