Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 (“Legal Highs”)


The law on so called “legal highs” has changed.  So-called “legal highs” (psychoactive substances) are substances which seek to mimic the effects of drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, but are not currently controlled as class A, B, or C drugs.   It is now illegal to supply any so-called “legal highs” for human consumption. This includes selling them or giving them away for free (even 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. Punishments range from a prohibition notice, which is a formal warning, to 7 years in prison.   Police and other agencies also have new powers. They will be able to stop and search people they think are supplying and they will seize and destroy so-called “legal highs” where they find them.   Drugs that are already illegal, such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and a number of so-called legal highs that have already been controlled as class A, B or C drugs, are not affected by these changes to the law. It is a crime to have these drugs in your possession at all.  Police will keep taking action when they find these substances as before.

What are the risks of so called “legal highs”?
A psychoactive substance 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. The sections below give examples of this in more detail.

Key messages for specific audiences

Young people

From 26 May, it will be illegal to sell or supply drugs known as so called “legal highs”.

With any drugs, you never know what you are getting and they can be incredibly harmful.

Sharing drugs with your friends means you are putting them at risk and danger.

The changes in the law mean you could face legal consequences for giving or selling any drugs to anyone.

Find out more at talktofrank.com.


Frequent users

Psychoactive substances or so called legal highs can be highly addictive and have many associated risks, including negative consequences on your mental health.

Visit or contact your local drug treatment centre for drug use support and advice.


Homeless population

From 26 May, changes in the law mean you could face legal consequences for giving or selling psychoactive substances to anyone.

Psychoactive substances or so called legal highs can be highly addictive and have negative consequences on your mental health.

Visit or contact your local drug treatment centre for drug use support and advice.