“It gave me a release from everything I used to think about and try to get away from”

First published: 09/05/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

“It gave me a release from everything I used to think about and try to get away from”: Key themes from ATTUNE and NPS qualitative studies exploring pathways to illicit stimulant use.

This presentation explores findings from 60 qualitative interviews in the ATTUNE study, and 25 interviews with NPS users in the NPS_N8 study. The ATTUNE project explored why some individuals exposed to ATS[1] (amphetamine types stimulants) did not start to consume, and how some users managed to keep their stimulant consumption on a comparatively controlled level and/or stop consumption altogether, whilst others switched to risky consumption patterns and/or develop dependency. The NPS_N8 project examined the impact NPS was having on users and police staff within police custody.

Emergent themes show that pathways into NPS and ATS use are complexly linked to a desire for pleasure/escapism, protective/problematic social networks, disadvantage, and mental health needs.  Negative behavioural consequences of NPS and ATS use meant that many users frequently transgressed the law, were arrested and detained in police custody. Emergency services and 3rd sector organisations are still responding to the changes brought about after the UK Psychoactive Substances Act May 2016. This increased understanding of which factors contribute to the development of risky drug use patterns in some individuals, and which factors appear to facilitate change toward less risky drug use patterns in others, will enable policy makers and practitioners to develop more effective prevention programs in the future.


[1]     ATS include a range of different substances such as amphetamine (“speed, whizz”), methamhetamine (“crystal meth”), MDMA/MDA/MDEA (“ecstasy”), new synthetic stimulants (cathinones, phenetylamines, mephedrone) and similar substances (“legal highs”, “bath salts”, “research chemicals”), and non-prescribed amphetamine-type medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®), modafinil (Vigil®), phentermine (Adipex).


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Dr Michelle Addison