Report: How Phoenix is tackling NPS in the community

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16 December 2015

The partnerships model

The team at Phoenix’s Leicester Recovery Partnership have been working hard developing innovative joint working initiatives with the LGBT community and sexual health services in Leicester, to improve the provision of treatment in the area.

A recent survey by London Friend[1] of their service users ‘found only 12% would feel comfortable accessing ‘mainstream’ services, with 53% saying they definitely would not (35% were unsure)’. In response to these potential barriers, Leicester Recovery Partnership provides a welcoming service for groups who may be at risk of going under the radar of more traditional drug treatment services, resulting in improved accessibility of services in the area.

Jamie Bashir, Service Manager at Phoenix Futures, commented: “there is a lack of awareness and education that needs to be addressed. Through our partnerships with local LGBT healthcare providers we have been able to help a greater number of people, offering them tailored support where they need it. Continuing to develop links and relationships in the community is going to be a continued focus as we deal with the challenges of NPS use.”

Is social media a factor in driving NPS use?

The service has seen an increase in the use of NPS, noting the accessibility, lack of awareness of the dangers and relative low cost as factors behind use. The role of social media and networking apps has also been noted as a potential catalyst, whereby chat rooms and online forums can be host to information that is largely unregulated, inaccurate and potentially misleading.

In response to the increased reporting of NPS use, the harm reduction service has responded with greater availability and visibility of information relating to NPS and chemsex (sexualised drug use) to open up dialogue, raise awareness and inform people of the risks. People are provided with free information packs, drug diaries and chemsex harm reduction kits including drink ‘spikeys’ and condoms to encourage people look after their sexual health.

Forming identities

Are young people exploring their social and sexual identities, are experimenting with substances and using NPS and alcohol to negotiate interactions, increasing the likelihood of risky behaviours? Building resilience and social capital is key to Phoenix’s approach to tackling NPS use and the related behaviours and the team work with individuals on body image, advocacy, and, self-esteem and self-confidence building to inform and empower people to have safer social and sexual interactions.

The impact of NPS use on individuals mental health, relationships, housing and work is still unclear. To minimise potential risks, Phoenix work on the associated motivations and behaviours, rather than the substance in isolation. LGBT health care providers and sexual health clinics have an important role to play in working with people who present with behaviours associated with NPS. Continuing to develop partnerships and engage those outside of drug and alcohol services has a big part to play in supporting those who need help and advice.

In London, Phoenix Futures services have established links with a number of ‘club drug clinics’, including Evolve (Southwark’s stimulant service) which operates a party drug clinic once a week; Lorraine Hewitt House, part of the London consortium; CNWL Club Drug Clinic and Antidote (London Friend).

Sharing our learning

  • We need to continue building partnerships to develop innovative joint working initiatives.

  • The sector needs to look more closely at the role of the internet and social media.

  • NPS should not be looked at in isolation.


Download a copy of our report here.


[1] “Out of Your Mind: Improving Provision of drug & alcohol treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans people.“, Monty Moncrieff, London Friend, 2014

Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).