Drugs A to Z

Emerging Drugs: Factsheet

  • Psychoactive Substances
Year: Year 9–10, Year 11–12

What are Emerging Drugs?

In recent years, many ‘new’ drugs have arrived on the market. These are often advertised as ‘legal highs’ , despite the fact that in many cases they are not legal. These substances are also marketed as ‘synthetic drugs’, ‘party pills’, ‘research chemicals’, or ‘plant food’, and are often used as substitutes for other illegal drugs. They are sometimes sold in stores or online and marketed as ‘legal’ and ‘safe’, however many contain ingredients that are actually illegal and potentially very dangerous.

Continual changes to these products make it even harder to know what they contain, what the effects will be and what potential impact they make have on users in the short and long term. Current substances include:

Type of Substance Examples Street Names Attempt to copy the effects of
Synthetic Cannabinoids “Herbal Smoking Blends" K2, Spice, Kronik, Northern Lights Cannabis
Synthetic Cathinones




Meow Meow, M-Kat


Ivory Wave, Bath Salts

MDMA/Ecstasy, methamphetamine
Synthetic Piperazines BZP, TFMPP A2, Rapture MDMA/Ecstasy, methamphetamine, hallucinogens
Substituted Phenethylamines

2C-x family: 2C-l, 2C-B

NBOMe family: 25l-NBOMe, 25B-NBOMe, 25C-NBOMe.



Trypstacy, Bromo, TWO’s


Death on Impact

Benzo Fury

MDMA/Ecstasy, methamphetamine, hallucinogens
Dissociative Anaesthetics Methoxetamine MXE, Moxy Ketamine
Substituted Tryptamines 5-MeO-DMT Foxy Hallucinogens

One pill (or package) may contain a mixture of different substances. New psychoactive substances are sold under a wide variety of other names, including 'Infinity', 'Benzo Fury' and 'Diablo'. The list is endless and names change frequently. However, users can't be sure what they're getting as the packaging doesn't guarantee what's inside.

You never know what's in a pill

What are the effects?

 Taking these is like a roll of the dice — they haven't been around long enough to know what the immediate risks are or what might happen later on in life to people who use them. However, it is known that a small number of people have died from using some types of new psychoactive substances.

Effects of new psychoactive substances vary, but may include:


  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Dilated (enlarged) pupils
  • Feeling of euphoria (a 'high')
  • Twitches and tremors
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Confusion
  • A 'comedown' (see glossary of terms)
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations (e.g. seeing or hearing things that aren't really there)
  • Overdose
  • Serotonin syndrome (see glossary of terms)
  • Paranoia and psychosis
  • Seizures.

Long Term

Early information from research suggests that use of these new psychoactive substances may lead to a range of problems including:

  • Dependence (addiction)
  • Memory problems
  • Paranoia (feeling extremely suspicious and frightened)
  • Psychosis (see glossary).

Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.

See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information. 

  • Credit to 2and2 for You never know what's in a pill infographic