Recommendations for NPS-targeted initiatives in Belgium
Background: The recently completed ‘NPS-care’ study provides a unique understanding of the use of Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in Belgium. By integrating both the users perspective as well as that of the professionals, the project provides recommendations for implementing achievable, health-oriented interventions targeting NPS use.
Methods: A two-step approach was turned to.
Firstly, an inventory of practices in prevention, treatment and harm reduction was made, based on an international literature study. We focused on evaluation studies although equal priority was given to so called ‘grey literature’ (unpublished literature or published in a non-commercial form, e.g. fact sheets, conference reports, etc). Due to the fact that the NPS phenomenon surfaced relatively recently, only limited literature sources were available.. Subsequently, good practices were distilled by using the Maryland Scientific Methods Scale (MSMS) as a reference point for the identification of evaluation studies of sound methodological quality. For the same reasons mentioned before (lack of published data), particular projects that display promising and inspiring approaches for the Belgian context, were also taken into account.
Secondly, based on the results of the literature study, the feasibility of (good) practices in the Belgian context was checked, using qualitative methods. We opted to use Focus Groups to discuss possible interventions as well as the essential preconditions needed for implementing them. Importantly, we specifically chose for a heterogeneous composition of the Focus Groups, with a representation of both professional NPS experts and NPS users. Together, they reached a consensus on the nature of NPS targeted initiatives needed in the field of prevention, harm reduction and care in Belgium.
Results: In conclusion, the NPS-care research project results in an analysis of a selected list of (good) practice interventions, targeting NPS use in Belgium. Furthermore, based on this list and through dialogue of NPS users and professionals, recommendations will be presented as to which initiatives (prevention, care and harm reduction) deserve implementation.
Conclusion: The recommendation presented in the context of the NPS-care project give an account of how qualitative research fueled by (professional and experience) experts, can serve as a basis for policy making.