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Novel Psychoactive Substances: Information

NOVEL PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES

The Drug

New psychoactive substances – often incorrectly called legal highs – contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (like cocainecannabis and ecstasy).

Although some of these so-called ‘legal highs’ have been legal in the past, many are currently illegal. And it’s important to realise that when the Psychoactive Substances Act comes into effect in spring 2016, none of these drugs will be legal to produce, supply, or import (even for personal use) for human consumption.

New psychoactive substances might sound like an awkward term, but it’s more accurate than legal highs. You’ll still hear people talking about legal highs, and since it’s a widely understood term, you might still find it used on this site. But they’re all illegal when the new law comes into effect.

There’s not enough known about many of these drugs to know about their potency, their effects on people, or what happens when they’re used with other substances or alcohol’ The packaging might describe a list of ingredients but you can’t be sure that this is what’s inside.  So you can’t really be sure what you’ve bought or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends. Many NPS are sold under brand names like ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Bliss’, ‘Mary Jane’  and some have been linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases deaths.

The Effects

The main effects of almost all psychoactive drugs, including so-called legal highs, can be described using the four main categories below. While drugs in each of these categories will be similar in the effects they produce, they will have widely different strengths and effects on different people.

  • Stimulants (like mephedrone, naphyrone) act like amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, in that they can make you feel energised, physically active, fast-thinking, very chatty and euphoric.
  • Downers or sedatives (like GBH/GBL, methoxetamine)  act similarly to benzodiazepines (drugs like diazepam or Valium), or GHB/GBL, in that they can make you feel euphoric, relaxed or sleepy.
  • Hallucinogens or psychedelics  (like NBOMe drugs)act like LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine and methoxetamine. They create altered perceptions and can make you hallucinate (seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t there). They can induce feelings of euphoria, warmth, ‘enlightenment’ and being detached from the world around.
  • Synthetic cannabinoids (like Spice or Black Mamba): act similarly to cannabis. The effects of these are similar cannabis intoxication:  relaxation, altered consciousness, disinhibition, a state of being energised and euphoria.

 

The Risks

You can’t really be sure of what’s in a ‘legal high’ that you’ve bought, or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends. For many NPS, there has been little or no research into the risks from human consumption. Will have widely different strengths and effects on different people.

Many of these risks are increased if the drug is combined with alcohol or with another psychoactive drug.  There have been cases of death too.

Find out more information on the risks here

The Law

Although some of these so-called ‘legal highs’ were legal in the past, since the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect  on 26 May 2016, none of these drugs are legal to produce, supply or import (even for personal use, e.g. over the internet) for human consumption. This includes selling them or giving them away for free (even to friends) when they are going to be taken to get high.

The ‘legal highs’ that were made illegal as class A, B or C drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, are still covered by that legislation. All other psychoactive substances not currently covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act will fall under the Psychoactive Substances Act.

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