Do we know enough about 'legal highs'?

 

New psychoactive substances (NPS), often known as ‘legal highs’, are substances designed to produce the same effects as drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, but are structurally different enough to avoid being controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

A blanket ban on legal highs and tough new enforcement powers came into effect on 26 May 2016. The Psychoactive Substances Act protects young people by banning any production, supply and importation or exportation for human consumption of these potentially dangerous drugs, linked to the deaths of 144 people in the UK in 2014 alone.

YNCB members recognise that young people aren’t being taught about the dangers associated with legal highs and in September 2015, the Young NCB Advisory Group voted to focus on this issue as their new priority and have launched a social media campaign called #high2low to raise awareness of the issue, educate young people about the dangers of 'legal highs' and ensure that young people can be more responsible for the choices they make. 

drugs wheel

What are 'legal highs'?

Legal highs' contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy).  These new substances are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and there is often not enough research about them to know about their potency, adverse effects from human consumption, or when used with other substances or alcohol. 

Legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption so they are often sold as incense, salts or plant food to get round the law.  The packaging may describe a list of ingredients but you cannot be sure that this is what the product will contain.  Legal highs are usually sold as powders, pills, smoking mixtures, liquids, capsules, or on perforated tabs. The powders can range from white to brown to yellow in colour and from flour-like to little crystals in consistency. The pills and capsules can range widely in size, shape and colour.

The law around 'legal highs'

 

The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

A blanket ban on legal highs and tough new enforcement powers came into effect on 26 May 2016. The Psychoactive Substances Act protects young people by banning any production, supply and importation or exportation for human consumption of these potentially dangerous drugs, linked to the deaths of 144 people in the UK in 2014 alone. 

The UK is the first country in the world to put in place a rigorous system of testing to demonstrate that a substance is capable of having a psychoactive effect, providing evidence to support civil action and prosecutions. Sanctions under the act include:

The government has already taken action against legal highs, having banned more than 500 potentially dangerous drugs since 2010 under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The new Act will go even further but legislation alone is not enough. The government continues to take action across prevention, treatment and recovery to reduce harmful drug use and is working with experts - including the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs - to develop a new drugs strategy - you can find out a bit more about this by clicking here.

 

What YNCB are doing to tackle the problem

We will:

Support our social media campaign here! 

We will do this by:

Click here to read about some of the negative effects that 'legal highs' have had on young people. 

How much do you really know about 'legal highs'? Try our quiz and find out!

Check out YNCB member Jack's blog questioning whether changes to the law banning 'legal highs' can really solve the problem. 

 

 

 

Join YNCB