19 May 2016

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The UK Government has confirmed that the Psychoactive Substances Act will come into effect on Thursday 26 May 2016, and will ban new psychoactive substances (NPS), often referred to as ‘legal highs’.

This new legislation will make it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export (including over the internet) any psychoactive substances. Possession of a psychoactive substance will not be an offence, except in a ‘custodial institution’ such as a prison or young offenders institution.

Products such as nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, food and medicinal products are exempt from the Act. The Home Office has also said that “Poppers” or alkyl nitrates will not fall under the Act.

Supplying someone else, including your friends,  or buying them from internet sites based abroad to be delivered here, can mean you can get up to 7 years in prison and/or a fine.

The Act doesn’t replace the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) so laws around existing illegal (controlled) drugs will remain the same.

What are NPS, or so called ‘legal highs’, and why is the law changing?

NPS mimic the effects of controlled drugs like cannabis and cocaine that are already illegal and can be just as harmful. The ease with which they can be produced and subsequently altered and their ease of availability through shops on the high street and the internet has presented a constantly evolving challenge.

The existing legislative framework has meant that these substances have remained legal up to now as they don’t come under the traditional radar of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which  controls drugs.

This new legislation will give police and other law enforcement agencies greater powers to tackle the trade in psychoactive substances. Making the sale and supply of these dangerous substances unlawful, and therefore less visible and available, will help to  reduce the harm caused by them.

Where to find out more – webchat now available

For more information about NPS, visit our drugs A-Z. For free and confidential advice and information you can email or call the Know the Score helpline on 0333 230 9468. You can also visit our services directory to find out about local support in your area.

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