PhD Research – Novel Psychoactive Substances, Harm Reduction and the Internet


I’m currently in my second year of a PhD at the University of the West of Scotland, and my research focuses on the use different sources of information for harm reduction advice on novel psychoactive substances (sometimes referred to as ‘legal highs’  or ‘research chemicals’) and the effect that this has on drug users’ perceptions and use of novel psychoactives in terms overall attitude towards harm, harm reduction practices, novel Vs illicit drugs and policies aimed at novel psychoactives and wider drug use.

For anyone who is interested in social research I’m using mixed methods and coming at the research from a interpretative social constructionist epistemology. I haven’t made the data gathering easy for myself… I’m triangulating data between a survey, semi-structured interviews and a content analysis of mainstream (newspapers, and online news reports) and alternative (Internet forums) media content on novel psychoactive substances, focusing on portrayal of risk and harm, legality and policy, portrayal of users and harm reduction information.

I’m looking for people who are drug users, who also use novel psychoactives (or ‘legal highs’/’research chemicals’) –  a broad (and admittedly somewhat inaccurate) definition by which I mean synthetic compounds and analogues of illicit drugs, as well as herbal and botanical psychoactives which are legally available, and prescription/pharmaceutical drugs which are used outwith the context of a doctors prescription (either for medical or non-medical use). The only stipulation is that respondents need to be 18, for ethical reasons, but can otherwise be from anywhere (I’ve had responses from as far away as China so far). The wider the base of respondents, the better.

I’m considering putting together another site for my PhD research and to blog about wider issues in drug use and policy, but in the mean time I’ve decided just set up this page on my site in the hope of attracting at least a few responses for my survey.

So here it is – My survey on Novel Psychoactive Substances, Harm Reduction and the Internet.

It only takes 5 minutes to complete and all of your answers are confidential and anonymous. If you would be interested in taking part in an interview to better express your views then please leave your email address at the end of the survey (this is kept in strictest confidence and will not be shared with anyone).

If you are able to share my survey on Facebook, Twitter or even by email or over whichever social network you and your friends use then I would be extremely grateful. If you share the survey on Twitter be sure to tag me – @kierandhamilton – so I can say thanks.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. If you have any questions or would just like to chat then please leave a comment, or you can email me –

Best wishes to you all,


(Image credit:

When everyone’s gone home…


One of the main corridors at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley.

Come this time of day the university is pretty quiet as most of the staff and all but a few dedicated students have went home, with just a few stragglers like myself hanging about, and of those most are hiding in their offices stuck to a computer screen.

Pretty creepy, eh?