Mapping novel psychoactive substances policy in the EU: The case of Portugal, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, the United Kingdom and Sweden

Jessica Neicun, Marthe Steenhuizen, Robin van Kessel, Justin C. Yang, Attilio Negri, Katarzyna Czabanowska, Ornella Corazza, Andres Roman-Urrestarazu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Web of Science)



The rapid rise in trade and use of NPS and the lack of information concerning their potential toxicity pose serious challenges to public health authorities across the world. Policy measures towards NPS taken so far have a special focus on their legal status, while the implementation of a public health strategy seems to be still missing. The aim of this study is to perform a general assessment of NPS-related policy (including regulatory measures and public health strategies) implemented by six European countries: Portugal, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, the United Kingdom and Sweden.


Six EU countries were included in this scoping review study. Drug policies (including legal responses and public health strategies) were analysed. UNODC drug policy classification system was used as a benchmark, while path dependency approach was used for data analysis; a net of inter-dependencies between international, EU and national policies was highlighted.

Results and discussion

The countries included in this study can be placed in a wide spectrum according to their formulation of drug policy, from Portugal and the UK that have specific legal responses to NPS but have differently focused on harm reduction strategies at one end, to Sweden whose drug-free society goal is not translated into a specific regulation of NPS at the other end.


The findings of the study reveal limited development towards harmonisation of national drug policies particularly with regard to NPS. To tackle the challenge presented by NPS, EU Member states have formulated legislation and public health strategies independently. National approaches to NPS are therefore in line with their already existing drug policies, reflecting cultural values towards substance abuse and national political interests, while the homogenization at an international level has so far mostly been focused on law enforcement and drugs use preventive strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0218011
Number of pages29
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019



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