New law on legal highs approved in UK

© Stephen Barnes Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

The UK government’s Psychoactive Substances Act – a ‘blanket ban’ on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – has received Royal Assent, or formal approval from the queen, and is due to come into effect on 6 April this year.

The ban covers ‘any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect’. Those caught producing or supplying such drugs face a maximum prison sentence of seven years. The measures are being introduced to tackle the rapid production of new ‘legal highs’ which are not covered by existing legislation.

Earlier versions of the new rules faced criticism – last July scientists from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) voiced concerns that the automatic classification of new drugs as illegal would hinder medical research. But some of these issues appear to have been resolved, with healthcare and scientific research activities with a ‘legitimate need’ to use psychoactive substances exempt from the ban. Many commonly consumed items that could be considered psychoactive – including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine – have also been excluded.

The National Crime Agency says it is now working with internet providers to crack down on legal highs being sold over the internet. 

Related Content

UK launches universal ban on legal highs

29 May 2015 News and Analysis

news image

The government will make it illegal to sell any psychoactive substance in a bid to crack down on designer drugs

Warnings that proposed UK blanket ban on 'legal highs' casts net too wide

8 June 2015 News and Analysis

news image

Experts concerned by vague definitions and effect on neuroscience research

Most Commented

WHO clarifies glyphosate risks

23 May 2016 Business

news image

UN and WHO panel conclude the herbicide glyphosate is ‘unlikely’ to cause cancer at realistic exposure levels

Crawling chemical system acts as if it’s alive

24 May 2016 Research

news image

Intriguing globule that moves, eats and defecates