New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – You may know them as Legal Highs
What are they?
A ‘legal high’ is a psychoactive substance or chemical high, that mimics the effect of controlled drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis. They can be ingested or smoked. Many are now controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, making it a criminal offence to produce, import, export, possess or supply except under licence. Many others are not controlled, however it does not mean they are safe.
The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent on 28 January 2016. The Act which applies across the whole of the UK came into force on 26 May 2016.
- makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment
- excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
- exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research from the offences under the act on the basis that persons engaged in such activities have a legitimate need to use psychoactive substances in their work
- includes provision for civil sanctions – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders (breach of the 2 orders will be a criminal offence) – to enable the police and local authorities to adopt a graded response to the supply of psychoactive substances in appropriate cases
- provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances
Are they Safe?
Those that are not illegal still have serious side effects such as breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations, seizures, comas and even death. They take the form of powders, pills and herbal smoking material and look similar to the controlled drugs that they mimic.
How dangerous are these drugs?
BBC Newsnight investigated legal highs and their dangers.
There were a number of deaths in the UK during 2013; both as a result of direct use, or NPS were found to be a contributory factor. There have also been a number of near misses in Suffolk.
What do they contain?
Benzylpiperazine (BZP) (Class C) normally a white or off white powder this also includes related piperazines compounds such as TFMPP, DBZB, mCPP, the effects are talkative, decreased appetite, agitation, anxiety, paranoia, vomiting, fits or seizures, collapse and difficulty in sleeping.
Gamma – Butyrolactone (GBL) this is very similar to GHB and converts to GHB shortly after entering the body, it can be lethal with alcohol, users experience feelings of euphoria, reduced inhibitions, arousal, drowsiness, nausea, reduced heart rate, hypothermia, unconsciousness, coma and death. It comes in an oily colourless liquid, its main use is an industrial solvent in the chemical industry GBL and related chemical 1,4-BD are (Class C drugs when intended for human ingestion).
Synthetic cannabinoids (Class B) there are many hundreds of these synthetic cannabinoids, a herbal like substance is sprayed with various chemicals in turn giving the effect of THC which leads to the same effects as would be experienced by the use of cannabis.
Methadrone also known as Mephedrone (not to be confused with Methadone) (Class B) similar to but slightly less effect than MDMA, we have had one death in Suffolk where this substance was found as a result of a toxicology test, there has also been reported overdoses in Suffolk.
Don’t Take the Risk
Police Forces and other law enforcement agencies from both the UK and in Europe are sharing intelligence on this ever growing area of work in order to determine any risks posed.
There is evidence to suggest that consumption can cause adverse effects on heart and blood vessels, risk of dependence and psychosis and anxiety effects and the higher potency of the chemical poses a higher risk of accidental overdose.
There appears to a trend with young people trying some of the new substances for their own enjoyment with a desire to achieve a relaxing , hallucinogenic or stimulating effect and another of a more older user, using for the stimulating and often for sexual purposes. Unfortunately in the user’s opinion and their understanding the word legal means safe, the opposite often applies.
Where are they being sold?
The drugs or chemicals have numerous trade names but it is the chemical name that may decide if it is controlled or not. It is difficult to determine if the substance is controlled or not without forensic analysis and it is possible to have two identical packets supplied by the same company, one may be controlled and one may not be controlled.
Legal Highs, or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), are often sold as research chemicals, bath salts, room odourisers and plant food. They are often sold on market stalls, at festivals and head shops which also sell other drug paraphernalia and are also available over the internet. They are also advertised not for human consumption. All this is all done to circumnavigate the law.
Suffolk Constabulary are working with Trading Standards to stamp out all supplies of this type of product in Suffolk using various powers to include the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and The General (Product) Safety Regulations 2005 with some success.
There are 100’s of trade names to numerous to mention, names such as Pulse ultra, Ivory Wave, Ex-ses Platinum, Jamaican Ghanja, Super Skunk Extra Strength, Doves, Vanilla Sky, Recharge Extra, Solar, Amsterdam Gold, Ocean Burst, Ice Bud Super Cold, are examples of the ones that have been seized, Exodus Damnation, Clockwork Orange, Black Mamba, NBOMe, Benzo Fury, Meadow Sweet there are many more.
Please inform Trading Standards if you see these products being sold by calling their Helpline on 08454 040506. If you have any other issues or concerns you can report these to Suffolk Police: KeepingUsInformed@suffolk.pnn.police.uk
What does the future hold?
The Government are currently researching the best way to deal with this long term problem. As soon as they control one legal high another one appears and we clearly need your help in getting the message out that these substances are not safe. Many are illegal, please consider the consequences before you buy and consume, a criminal conviction will hinder your long term prospects such as career and employment, but more importantly consider the health implications that may be caused by ingesting or smoking these products.
We need your help
To help the Government make their decision many organisations and individuals are encouraged to share their experiences and knowledge of legal highs:
- Who is using them?
- Where are they buying them?
- What effects do they get and how much they cost?
There are a number of ways you can help with the gathering of this information:
- Share information with Suffolk Police, which will be treated in confidence
- If you would like to discuss any aspect of psychoactive substances please contact the Controlled Drug Liaison Officer at Suffolk Constabulary email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01473 613500 Ext 2869 or mobile 07979 178664
- More drug awareness information can be found on the Frank website.
- Many are illegal and likely to cause you serious harm or even death.
- Smoking or ingesting Legal Highs may cause you serious harm; you may also be committing an offence THINK before you do die!
- Do you know what’s in those packets, THINK! Before you smoke or ingest, Legal Highs are unsafe and can cause serious health problems or even worse
Our emphasis is firmly placed on keeping Suffolk residents, especially young people, safe from any harm that the use of these substances may cause in the future, whilst at the same time do all we can to disrupt the supply both on a local and national basis.