Typology of new psychoactive substance use among the general Australian population
Study aims: The aim of this study was to examine the typology of Australian illicit drug consumers to determine whether those who use new psychoactive substances (NPS) differ from those using other illicit substances.
Methods: Data were from the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, a representative population study; analyses were limited to participants reporting past year illicit drug use (including NPS; n = 3309). Latent class analysis identified groups based on past year substance use, and a weighted multivariable, multinomial regression model was used to examine characteristics associated with group membership.
Results: Six consumer typologies were identified: cannabis consumers (46%), pharmaceutical consumers (21%), ecstasy and cocaine consumers (19%), amphetamine and cannabis consumers (7%), polysubstance consumers (6%), and inhalant consumers (2%). Sixteen participants (total sample: 0.07%; NPS consumers: 5.7%) reported exclusive NPS use. Synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonist use was highest among amphetamine and cannabis consumers and polysubstance consumers; other NPS use was highest among polysubstance consumers. Polysubstance consumers were younger than all other groups, and more likely to engage in dangerous activities while under the influence of substances, inject drugs and report hazardous alcohol consumption. Amphetamine and cannabis consumers were more likely to report trouble ceasing their drug use.
Conclusion: We found no distinct profile of NPS-only consumers; however, NPS use was a marker for more problematic patterns of use. Our findings suggest that specialised NPS interventions or harm reduction messages may not be required in the Australian context; rather, they could be based upon existing responses to drug use.