NPS (research chemicals)

What are NPS?

New drugs are regularly introduced on the market that are ‘comparable’ in effect to traditional ‘illegal’ drugs, but which are not (yet) subject to drug legislation, and are often produced to circumvent the law. These substances are known under the collective term New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and are also known as designer drugs, research chemicals (RCs) or legal highs.

Because they are new substances, often little or no research has been done. Little or nothing is therefore known about the (psychoactive) effects of the drug, the long- and short-term consequences, the risk of addiction, and the consequences of frequent use. It is also unknown which dose produces desired effects and which poses possible dangers.

Always be extra careful with new drugs. If you don’t want to take a risk, don’t use drugs. This applies even more to resources that fall into the category NPS: You are your own guinea pig.

Other names for NPS are legal highs, research chemicals or designer drugs.

Well known NPS


There are countless new substances. For every existing banned substance, there are several substances that have a similar effect. There are stimulating NPS such as 4-FA (4-FMP), Benzo fury and mephedrone (4-MMC). There are narcotic NPS like synthetic cannabinoids (moonlight) and variants of benzodiazepines, and there are psychedelics like 2C-B and NBOMe.

Dose and method of use

The dosage per substance varies considerably. This can be from less than a milligram to several hundred milligrams. Especially for substances with a low dose, it is highly recommended to use an accurate scale that can weigh 1 milligram (0.001 gram).

Most new drugs are sold as white powder. They are usually swallowed or snorted, although smoking, spraying and plugging (anal administration) are also common. But nowadays capsules and pills also occur.


The duration of action varies greatly from drug to drug. Look at the information about the drug itself.


Because most of these substances or research chemicals have not yet been investigated, little or nothing is often known about the potential risks in the short term, let alone in the long term. Always be careful with new (unknown) drugs.

You really are your own guinea pig!


Combining different types of drugs can be risky and unpredictable. When you combine drugs you can have a higher risk of health problems. In the following paragraphs you can read about the effects and the risks of a number of combinations that occur frequently and also a about few that are extra hazardous. Also check our theme combining drugs.

The influence of combinations varies enormously per drug. So look at the information of the drug itself for information about combinations.

Unity tips

· Know that you are your own guinea pig

· Use an accurate scale to measure the desired dosage

· Know that not every source is reliable (not even online). Therefore, always have your drug tested. Almost all NPS can be tested nowadays. However, it might occur that even for the testing service a substance is unknown. But that is rare. They can share the latest knowledge about the product with you at the test service.

· If you are taking a new drug, start with a much smaller dose than you need in order to notice something from it. Wait three weeks and then take a dose twice the size of the previous one until you feel the effect once. Again, three weeks later you do not take the double of the previous amount but you take a small amount more. You then slowly build up to the dose at which you should achieve a desired effect.

Do you want more information, do you have a question or do you want to talk about this or another drug? Check out the contact details in your area or send an e-mail to

Check here a movie made by Drugs Meter (Global Drug Survey) with their harm reduction tips for the first use of a new drug:



History and the law regarding NPS

Since drugs are banned, people have been looking for ways to get around these bans. One of the ways to do this is by developing substances that look like the illegal substances but are not covered by existing legislation. In the 1920’s, for example, alternatives to heroin and morphine were developed in response to the Opium Act. Alternatives to PCP and LSD followed in the 1960’s and alternatives to 2C-B in the 1990’s.

Alexander Shulgin was an important person in the history of research chemicals. Shulgin was a pharmacologist and chemist from Berkeley, USA. He developed a new method to synthesize MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, and strongly supported the use of MDMA in a therapeutic setting. He synthesized hundreds of substances, including mescaline, and tested these with his wife and a group of friends. He described his experiments and experiences in the books PiHKAL and TiKHAL.

The use of the term ‘research chemicals’ originated in the 1990’s. A number of online sellers wanted to make it appear that they were selling psychoactive chemicals (often a variant of a prohibited substance) for legitimate reasons. The sellers had the idea that this marketing strategy would prevent them from being prosecuted. Indeed, US law prohibits the sale of substances that resemble a prohibited substance. This is prohibited only if the prosecutor can demonstrate that this substance is intended for human consumption. Later, all kinds of other functions were invented for which the substances serve, from air freshener to plant food and from bath salt to CD cleaner.

In 2004, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) conducted a WebTryp operation in the US, which investigated online sellers. This was a response to the rapid growth of these online sales, as well as a number of hospital admissions and deaths since 2002. This led to several arrests of web store owners. Substantial sentences were given, even up to life imprisonment, as they were believed to know that the products sold were being used for consumption. The users were not prosecuted in the US. The customer base of the websites tackled by the DEA was shared internationally to be used in the ‘War on Drugs’. As a result, users were arrested and prosecuted in Great Britain.

The main result of this operation is that sources are no longer discussed openly. Users are afraid that if these sources are discussed too openly, the next operation will follow. A negative consequence of this is that little information is available about the professionalism of sellers. This makes users vulnerable to scams and to untrustworthy and unsafe sellers.

The law

Most NPS are not prohibited in the Netherlands. It is of course true that you can easily be classified as a suspect if you walk around with a bag of white powder. If you want to know whether a drug is prohibited or not, you can consult the Opiumlist. Also check the law page for more info.

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