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A psychoactive substance (also known as 'legal highs') is defined in the new law as a drug which is capable of affecting a person’s mental functioning or emotional state, but is not currently controlled as a class A, B or C drug.
NPS are sold in different forms including powders, pills or capsules. The powders come in a range of colours and consistency, whilst the pills and capsules come in different sizes, shapes and colours. NPS is sold using many different ‘street names’ such as “Hypnotic”, “Puff” and “Giggle”.
Smoking mixtures may be supplied in colourful, attractive packaging with labels describing the contents as incense or herbal smoking mixture. Although the contents look like dried herbs or plant cuttings, they are actually plant material sprayed with potent chemicals.
There is no way of knowing for sure what chemicals are in them. Unlike foods and other items that are for sale there is nobody testing these substances for safety or checking to see what is in the package. Substances which look similar or are sold with the same or similar names have been found to have different strengths and effects when consumed.
NPS substances mimic the effects of controlled drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy.
It is now illegal to supply any NPS for human consumption. This includes giving them away for free to friends when they are going to be taken for their psychoactive effects. Importing them from abroad will also be a crime.
Police will take action where they find people committing these offences and punishments range from a prohibition notice (formal warning) to seven years in prison. They will be able to stop and search people they think are supplying and will seize and destroy the NPS.
Drugs that are already illegal, such as cocaine or ecstasy, are already controlled and are not affected by these changes to the law.
There has been little or no useful research into the short or long-term risks from human consumption of NPS. They have widely different strengths and effects on different people and you can become addicted too.
If you have information about the production, importation or supply of NPS report this anonymously via Crime Stoppers 0800 555 111.
For further help and advice around NPS see the FRANK website - NPS.
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