Use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) has posed a global threat to public health and the security of the population. As of December 2019, the NPS items identified in total have outnumbered by three to one the controlled substances listed in the 1961 and 1971 UN Drug Conventions. However, most of these NPS have not been scheduled by the United Nations because of their easy modification on the chemical structures to shun control. Currently, the scheduling and control of NPS is mostly at the national level and a rational scheduling of NPS by objective assessments is essential but often lacking. To rationally schedule NPS, the NPS misuse situation was firstly estimated with the Taiwanese Substance Misuse Monitoring and Reporting Systems (SMMRS) from 2006 through 2019. Then, the assessment of drug-related harms with an expert Delphi procedure for drug scheduling was performed. The epidemiological analysis revealed that among 37 substances commonly misused in Taiwan, heroin posed the highest risk, followed by (meth)amphetamine and ketamine. Of note, misuse of NPS, such as ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids (JWHs, AM-2201, XJR-11), synthetic cathinones (MDPV, bk-MDMA, 4 – MMC etc.), phenethylamines (PMMA, FMA, 2C-B, 2C-E etc.), piperazines (BZP, TFMPP) and tryptamines (5-MeO-DIPT) has been on the rise. Though perceived drug-related harms differed among experts with different professional backgrounds, the differences were not significant. Four dimensions of drug-related harms-- addiction, misuse, social harm and physical harm-- integrated from Nutt’s model and scheduling criteria of Taiwan’s Statute for the Prevention and Control of Illicit Drugs (SPCID), were further divided into 11 indicators and applied to assess harms of the 37 substances. Among the 11 indicators that corresponded to the four dimensions, 7 had significant prediction capabilities. Additionally, prevalence of misuse nationally was an important predictor of harm assessment. These indicators of harm assessment of drug misuse can help develop a proper scheduling system for the management of controlled/illicit drugs. In conclusion, drug scheduling is the first step toward proper management of drug use problems. Facing the threats of NPS, it is imperative to implement a rational and effective scheduling system for appropriate management. This study provides a mechanism to scrutinize, and improve, the current evaluation process for NPS scheduling.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.