Health Protection Research Unit for Chemical & Radiation Threats & Hazards


Identification and Characterisation of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) Associated with Acute Toxicity

In recent years Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) or ‘legal highs’ have become an increasing health challenge, with many new substances reported each year and increasing numbers of emergency department presentations and deaths.

The effects of acute and chronic exposure to these emerging substances are poorly characterised and there is currently no national UK data collection system linking analytically confirmed NPS use with toxicity. 

This study will address this gap by collating data collected by the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) and participating NHS toxicology laboratories performing extended screening for drugs of misuse on patient samples. The study will also perform detailed toxicology analysis using state-of-the-art discovery methodology on samples from patients with severe toxicity that are negative on extended screening, where NPS use is suspected.

The research will identify trends in enquiries and positive laboratory samples relating to NPS, and identify NPS involved in episodes of toxicity presenting to UK hospitals and link specific substances with reported features of toxicity.

Supporting documents

If you would like to take part in the study check and download supporting documents on our project documents page.