Until more recently ‘legal’ highs being sold were generally mixtures of herbs that were smoked with the active ingredients used being minor stimulants such as ephedrine or caffeine, but times have changed with a growing market for ‘party pills’ with effects like those of illegal drugs.
Terminology varies and includes Legal Highs, New (Novel) Psychoactive Substances (NPS), synthetic drugs, recreational psychoactive substances, herbal highs and research chemicals.
These ‘new’ drugs can be recognised by their brand or product name, by their chemical name or by their slang name and are generally categorised into three broad families; depressants, stimulants and psychedelic or hallucinogenic.
‘Legal highs’ - NPS are substances created to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or cannabis. They are manufactured to be sufficiently different to illegal drugs so they can avoid being classified as illegal substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
To get around current medicines legislation which makes it illegal to sell, supply or advertise ‘legal highs’ for ‘human consumption’ sellers refer to them as research chemicals, plant food, bath crystals or pond cleaner.
'Legal Highs' - NPS for sale
Products on sale are described as plant food, incense, pond cleaner, room odoriser, cream dispenser refills or bath salts, often having no ingredients listed on the packet.
Most substances are powders or pellets with some made to resemble cannabis and look natural, herbal. Sold in brightly coloured packets looking like sweets and candy which can be purchased just as easily. They can be sniffed, chewed, smoked, brewed and drank and swallowed.
Packaging typically includes a picture of a skull and crossbones - a sign of toxicity. Words such as ‘not for human consumption’, ‘for sale to adults only’ or ‘research chemicals’ to avoid the UK Medicines Act legislation.
These mind altering chemicals are sold in Head shops on the high street, internet sites, petrol stations, pet stores. Head shops are shops that target an alternative culture, selling clothes, magazines, ‘Legal Highs’ - NPS and other items associated with drug use such as bongs or pipes.