Intended for healthcare professionals


New Zealand’s regulation of new psychoactive substances

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 13 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1534
  1. Jack Newberry, house surgeon1,
  2. Alex Wodak, emeritus consultant2,
  3. Doug Sellman, director3,
  4. Geoffrey Robinson, consultant physician4
  1. 1Wellington Hospital, Wellington 6021, New Zealand
  2. 2Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3National Addiction Centre, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
  4. 4Medical Detoxification Service, Capital and Coast District Health Board, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. jack.newberry{at}

A response to the futility of trying to ban such substances as they appear

Last year the New Zealand parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Bill 2013, which the associate minister for health argued was “to protect New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, from the harm caused by untested drugs and an unregulated market.”1 2 This started the process of creating a controlled market in recreational drugs, which is a major shift away from the approach taken for many decades by almost all countries of prohibiting about 250 specified psychoactive drugs. The act does not alter the existing restrictions on controlled drugs but sets up a framework for regulating the market for some new drugs.

The impetus for this legislation was the increasing availability of new substances, particularly γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB, “fantasy”), benzylpiperazine (BZP), and a range of synthetic cannabinoids.

Other countries have also become increasingly worried about the growing number of new psychoactive drugs. The European Police Office reports that the number of newly identified drugs in the European Union continues to increase, with 24 reported in 2009, 41 in 2010, 49 in 2011, and 73 in 2012.3 The growing problem of emerging synthetic drugs was also recognised in 2013 in the United States.4

Like most other countries, New Zealand’s previous laws on psychoactive drugs with addictive …

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