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The diverse reasons for using Novel Psychoactive Substances - A qualitative study of the users' own perspectives
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Social and Psychological Studies.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Social and Psychological Studies.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Communication and IT, Department of Psychology. Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Social and Psychological Studies. Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Centre for Public Safety.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5668-0469
2018 (English)In: International journal on drug policy, ISSN 0955-3959, E-ISSN 1873-4758, Vol. 52, p. 71-78Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

The increasing number of legally ambiguous and precarious Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) constitutes a challenge for policy makers and public health. Scientific and more in-depth knowledge about the motivations for using NPS is scarce and often consist of predetermined, non-systematic, or poorly described reasons deduced from top-down approaches. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to explore and characterize the users’ self-reported reasons for NPS use inductively and more comprehensively.

Methods

The self-reported reasons of a self-selected sample of 613 international NPS users were collected via an online survey promoted at the international drug discussion forum bluelight.org and later analyzed qualitatively using inductive thematic analysis.

Results

The analysis showed that the participants used NPS because these compounds reportedly: 1) enabled safer and more convenient drug use, 2) satisfied a curiosity and interest about the effects, 3) facilitated a novel and exciting adventure, 4) promoted self-exploration and personal growth, 5) functioned as coping agents, 6) enhanced abilities and performance, 7) fostered social bonding and belonging, and 8) acted as a means for recreation and pleasure. The consumption of NPS was also driven by 9) problematic and unintentional use.

Conclusion

The present study contributed to a more comprehensive understanding of the users’ own and self-reported reasons for using NPS, which needs to be acknowledged not only in order to minimize drug related harm and drug user alienation but also to improve prevention efforts and reduce the potentially counter-intuitive effects of strictly prohibitive policies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2018. Vol. 52, p. 71-78
Keywords [en]
novel psychoactive substances; motivation; drugs; legal highs; internet
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-65428DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.11.003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-65428DiVA, id: diva2:1167243
Available from: 2017-12-18 Created: 2017-12-18 Last updated: 2017-12-28Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Novel Psychoactive Substances: Experienced effects, attitudes, and motivations among online drug community users
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Novel Psychoactive Substances: Experienced effects, attitudes, and motivations among online drug community users
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of the present research is to contribute to the bridging of the knowledge gap pertaining to the field of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and its online community of users. The findings demonstrate that the community is characterized by robust group cohesiveness and counter public attitudes. The discussions functioned as a cumulative exchange of peer-to-peer generated knowledge and a social support system in service of harm reduction. The users were experienced drug users generally driven by recreation, novelty, and a range of instrumental purposes. They were also knowledgeable and presented a good degree of well-being. Some of the more conspicuous incentives for NPS use included the seeking of novel and exciting adventures, the enabling of safer drug use circumstances, and the guinea-pig-like self-experimenting in service of the community. Several distinct motivation and risk profiles were found at the level of drug groups. For example, the stimulants, opioids and GABA activating substances were associated with performance enhancement, coping, and high abuse liability, while the hallucinogens were related to self-exploration, spiritual attainment, and significantly lower abuse potential. Three user orientations are outlined: 1) the risk-negligent sensation seeker with an interest in stimulants and enhancement, 2) the self-medicating pursuer of coping with mistrust in public health and proneness for sedative drugs, and 3) the well-informed self-explorer advocating harm reduction and hallucinogens. It is concluded that the field of NPS needs to be approached with more sophistication than the broad brush approach of drugs in general. A one fits all preventive solution is likely to be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. We may also benefit from recognizing most drug use as an adaptive function with instrumental value rather than something pathologic, which will run the risk of fueling potentially harmful behaviors like self-medicating and avoidance of health care. Moreover, prohibition not only drives potentially harmful substance displacement but may also serve as the key incentive for engagement in risky behaviors. The current investigations could be a starting point for science based benefit-risk evaluations and the development of more appropriate prevention messages.

Abstract [en]

The unprecedented increase of legally ambiguous and easily available Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) constitutes a challenge for legislators, public health agencies, and researchers alike. Therefore, the aim of the present investigations is to contribute to knowledge about the online NPS community, including the users’ experienced effects and motivations for use. The findings demonstrate that the community is characterized by robust group cohesiveness, counter public attitudes, and a focus on harm reduction. A range of diverse reasons for NPS use were revealed and described in more detail than previous accounts. Several distinct motivation and risk profiles were identified at the level of drug groups. The results point to the occurrence of at least three user orientations including the risk-negligent sensation seeker, the self-medicating pursuer of coping, and the well-informed self-explorer. It is concluded that the diverse field of NPS needs to be approached with more sophistication than the broad brush approach of drugs in general. A one fits all preventive solution is likely to be ineffective at best and counterproductive at worst. We may also benefit from recognizing most drug use as an adaptive function with instrumental value rather than something pathologic, which will run the risk of fueling potentially harmful behaviors like self-medicating and drug user stigmatization and alienation. Moreover, prohibition not only drives presumably harmful substance displacement but may also serve as the key incentive for engagement in risky behaviors. The current investigations could be a starting point for science based benefit-risk evaluations, greater appreciation of the users’ views, and the development of more effective prevention.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2018. p. 91
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2018:2
Keywords
Novel psychoactive substances, drugs, legal highs, Internet, forum, ethylphenidate, discussions, motivations, harm reduction, substance displacement
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-65430 (URN)978-91-7063-828-2 (ISBN)978-91-7063-923-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-02-16, 1 B 306, Fryxellsalen, Karlstad, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-01-19 Created: 2017-12-18 Last updated: 2018-04-03Bibliographically approved

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