Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 (“Legal Highs”)

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 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 is also 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 the power to stop and search people they think are supplying and they will seize and destroy so-called “legal highs” where they find them.

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

  • It is 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.
  • You could face legal consequences for giving or selling any drugs to anyone.
  • Find out more at