Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 217–235 | Cite as

Understanding and managing the new psychoactive substances phenomenon: a holistic approach

  • Luca Zamengo
  • Giampietro Frison
  • Guus ZwitserEmail author
Original Article


The new psychoactive substances (NPS) phenomenon has emerged as a global threat that challenges public health and institutions. There are important qualitative differences between the NPS and traditional drugs phenomena. We discuss these differences and explore the complex structure of the NPS phenomenon. We analyse the entire phenomenon with a global, holistic approach. We present an original framework to help policy makers, healthcare practitioners, and community workers understand the NPS phenomenon’s structure and to plan comprehensive policy responses and prevention strategies. We discuss fundamental characteristics, driving forces, routes of information, and social and individual health risks of the phenomenon. We conclude that a holistic approach integrating all aspects of the framework is essential for addressing this emerging threat. We give practical examples of interventions likely to be effective.


New psychoactive substances Health risks Holistic approach Drug policy Institutional responses 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Environmental Hygiene and Forensic ToxicologyMestre VeneziaItaly
  2. 2.Drug Policy ProgramCentro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)AguascalientesMexico

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