"legal highs"

"Legal highs" or ‘Psychoactive Substances’ are substances that have similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine or cannabis.  They are sometimes called club drugs or NPS (new psychoactive substances).

Many of these drugs are now controlled, but some are still legal to possess. This does not mean they are safe or approved for people to use.

Some drugs marketed as legal highs actually contain ingredients that are illegal to possess.

To find out more about "legal highs", visit the FRANK website


"Legal highs" and the law

Many drugs that were previously sold as "legal highs" are now controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, including mephedrone (meow meow or mcat), naphyrone, BZP and GBL. This means they are illegal to possess or supply to others.

There are lots of different types of synthetic cannabinoids, and a large number have become Class B drugs.

On 6th April 2016 a new law comes into effect which makes it an offence to produce, supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance if the substance is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects and regardless of its potential for harm.   The main intention of the Act is to shut down shops and websites that currently trade in "legal highs". Put simply any substance will be illegal to produce or supply if it is likely to be used to get high.

For more information, a fact sheet is available at:-



The risks of "legal highs"

"Legal highs" can carry serious health risks. The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been used before in drugs for human consumption.

This means they haven't been tested to show they are safe. Users can never be certain what they are taking and what the effects might be.

Other risks:

  • Increased risk if alcohol is combined with any legal or illegal drug.
  • "Legal highs" can reduce inhibitions, so users may do things they would not normally do. They can cause paranoia, coma, seizures and, in rare cases, death.
  • Because the chemical ingredients in a branded product can be changed without notice, the risks are unpredictable.
  • Even drugs that look similar or have similar names may be of varying strengths and have different effects.