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Novel psychoactive substances: classification, pharmacology and toxicology (Book review)

A thorough look at novel psychoactive substances

Novel psychoactive substances: classification, pharmacology and toxicology’ By Paul I. Dargan, David M. Wood. Pp xiv+423. Price £60.99. San Diego: Elsevier: 2013. ISBN 978 0 12 415816 0

This reference book comprehensively collates a vast range of facts and details about the recently much debated topic of novel psychoactive substances, including the much talked about “legal highs”.


It brings together a plethora of material on the subject. It includes descriptions of the legal status and classifications of the various substances across a number of different countries, as well as discussing more sociological and epidemiological aspects such as patterns of use across various populations, accessibility, methods of purchase, demand and supply processes.

It then moves on to chapters devoted to the details of individual named drugs such as synthetic amphetamines, mephedrone, ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids, and psychoactive herbal and fungal substances. In these chapters it describes the pharmacology and toxicity in both animals and humans of the specific substances of interest, the methods used to test for them and how to analyse the results.

The book is written by multiple authors based in a number of countries across the world, helping to give the book an international perspective and appeal. This approach is particularly pertinent when considering the interaction between the substances’ relationship to the law and patterns of use within nations.

This is a detailed reference text. Tables and graphs allow easier comparison of data and there are numerous figures of chemical structures. It is extensively referenced.

This book would be a useful reference source for those with a keen interest in novel psychoactive substances internationally, and appeal to those working in this specialist area whether in the field of research or academics, or clinically.

Caroline Parker, MPharmS, is a consultant pharmacist, mental health services, at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical JournalURI: 11131440

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