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Taking the cat-and-mouse game to the next level: different perspectives on the introduction of the German New Psychoactive Substances Act
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Number of Authors: 62022 (English)In: Harm Reduction Journal, E-ISSN 1477-7517, Vol. 19, no 1, article id 122Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: To counteract the spread of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and to prevent the emergence of novel substances, specifically designed as a response to the legal control of individual substances, a new law was introduced in Germany in 2016: the New Psychoactive Substances Act (NpSG). The NpSG combines a generic approach with the waiver of criminal liability for the acquisition and possession of NPS for personal use, which is a novelty in German narcotics law. The present study aimed at exploring the impact of the introduction of the NpSG from three different perspectives—NPS users, staff of addiction care facilities, and members of law enforcement authorities—to better understand the dynamics surrounding such a change in legislation and to contribute to the body of international experience in dealing with NPS.

Methods: Semi-structured narrative interviews were conducted with a total of 193 representatives of the three different groups affected by the law. These interviews included questions on perceived changes associated with the introduction of the NpSG as well as questions on opinions regarding legal and criminal policy issues. The analysis was carried out using qualitative content analysis according to Mayring.

Results: Most interviewees welcomed the non-criminalisation approach of the NpSG but also noticed that, in practice, not much has changed for users. Nevertheless, the changes in legislation have had an impact on the market. For example, novel substances have emerged circumventing the new legislation. According to users, this has led some to reduce NPS use and others to adopt more hazardous consumption patterns. Overall, most respondents did not expect the introduction of the NpSG to bring any significant changes.

Conclusions: Although the idea of non-criminalisation inherent to the NpSG is appreciated and the generic approach has been well implemented in the law, thus covering a wide range of substances, the introduction of the law—perhaps for that very reason—has also had unintended and negative consequences, taking the cat-and-mouse game to the next level. To end the game, or at least to defuse the game situation, a combination of different strategies will be necessary, with legislation always playing a key role.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2022. Vol. 19, no 1, article id 122
Keywords [en]
Drug policy, New psychoactive substances (NPS), New Psychoactive Substances Act (NpSG), Hazardous drug use, Law enforcement, Qualitative research
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-211584DOI: 10.1186/s12954-022-00704-7ISI: 000878668300001PubMedID: 36329471Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85141201106OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-211584DiVA, id: diva2:1712982
Available from: 2022-11-23 Created: 2022-11-23 Last updated: 2024-02-15Bibliographically approved

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Kraus, Ludwig

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