New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach

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New Strategies for New Psychoactive Substances: A Public Health Approach

John Jay College of Criminal Justice (524 W 59th St, New York, NY 10019): June 9th, 7:00-9:00 pm

The New School (Hoerle Lecture Hall, UL105, University Center, 63 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY): June 10th, 8:30 am - 5:30pm

DESCRIPTION: The emergence of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) -- ranging from synthetic cannabinoids, such as K2, to synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl -- pose a number of challenges for policymakers, media covering these issues, medical and social service providers, and people who use these substances. Unfortunately, current media and policy responses to NPS have been largely fueled by misinformation rather than facts. This summit will share what is currently known about NPS, identify areas for future research, discuss strategies for intervening when use becomes harmful and for new forms of drug regulation, and explore how messaging and media about NPS can become more constructive. The summit will lay the foundation for a series of recommendations for policymakers, medical and social service providers, and media based in evidence rather than fear.


June 9, 7:00pm-9:00pm at John Jay: Why do people use NPS?

Before we can discuss what to do about NPS, it is important to understand the range of reasons why people use NPS, specifically, and psychoactive drugs in general. What motivates use? What benefits might be derived from their use? Are there different communities of people who use for different reasons? If so, how do they differ? How do existing drug policies influence the use of these substances? How does or should understanding the underlying reasons for use shape our responses?

June 10, 8:30am-5:30pm at The New School

8:30-9:00am: Registration

9:00-9:30: Welcome

9:30-11:30am: Getting beyond the myths: What do we actually know about NPS?

Although many NPS are not all that new, responses from both media and policymakers have often been based on little information or misinformation. What exactly are NPS (including synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic opioids, cathinones, kratom, etc.)? What are their effects – both harmful and potentially beneficial? What do we know about who is using NPS? In which parts of the country are they being used? What do we know about trends in their use? What don’t we know and what needs more research?

11:30am-12:30pm: Lunch

12:30-2:30pm: Public health, harm reduction, and policy interventions

NPS provide an opportunity to rethink out failed approach to prohibitionist drug policies and to conceptualize innovative approaches to responding to drugs. What can we do in the short term to minimize and address the harms of NPS? What public health, clinical and harm reduction interventions might be needed? What policy changes might help? Can we envision new regulatory schemes that do not rely on criminalization? What can we learn from other countries about how to respond to NPS?

2:30-3:00pm: Break

3:00-4:30pm: Drug scares, media, and messaging

Drug scares or panics follow a recognizable pattern that includes exaggerated fears about a new substance, an absence of concrete information, and associating the new substance with a marginalized group. How do NPS fit or defy the “drug scare” model? What role do media and messaging play in shaping policy responses to NPS? What role should the media be playing and what tools do they need to do so?

4:30-5:00pm: Closing: Where do we go from here?

Next steps for researchers, policymakers, media, and providers.

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