Psychoactive Substances

Psychoactive substances are often referred to as legal highs and used as an umbrella term for products that are intended to mimic the effects of controlled drugs. The term ‘legal’ implies that these substances are not as dangerous as controlled drugs, but are in fact designed to mimic their effects. In reality many do actually contain controlled substances, which are illegal and whose side effects cannot be predicted.

Many substances are sold under brand names like ‘Vertex’, ‘Spice', ‘Mary Jane’  and some have been linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases deaths.

The main effects of almost all psychoactive drugs, can be described using four main categories:

  • Stimulants
  • ‘Downers’ or sedatives
  • Psychedelics or hallucinogens
  • Synthetic cannabinoids

For more information about the different types of Psychoactive Substances visit the Frank website.

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent on 28 January 2016 and came into force on 26 May 2016.

This legislation will fundamentally change the way police forces tackle psychoactive substances and will make new drugs that appear on the market illegal quicker than ever before. It will give police the power to shut down shops that are trading in legal highs and it will also be an offence to import them, for instance buying them from a foreign website.

What is the Act?

The Act makes it an offence for anyone in the UK 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.

What's excluded?

The Act 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.

Policing operations

Police in Cheshire have been tackling this issue for some time and work very closely with local authorities who provide support services for addicts. Operations have been taking place across the county to raise awareness of changes in the law to shop owners and other suppliers, giving them time to adhere to the new legislation and stop the trading of these dangerous drugs.