Home Office
Printable version E-mail this to a friend

Government to ban harmful ‘legal highs’

Man-made chemicals which are sprayed on herbal smoking products such as “Spice” and the chemical solvent GBL are two of the so called “legal highs” to be banned by the end of the year, Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

As part of the Government’s commitment to tackle the emerging threat of so called “legal highs”, a new information campaign to educate young people on the dangers of a range of these substances was also announced today. The campaign, which will launch during the traditional student Freshers’ week in September, will highlight their dangers, particularly when they are mixed with alcohol.

Following public consultation on the options for the control of GBL under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), the following substances will be banned, subject to parliamentary approval:

• Chemical solvent - GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone) and a like chemical – which are converted  in to the Class C drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the body and often used as  ‘club  drugs’. They will be controlled as Class C drugs and banned when intended for human  consumption;

• Synthetic cannabinoids - man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as  ‘Spice’, which act on the body in a similar way to cannabis but can be far more potent,  will be controlled as a Class B drug alongside cannabis; and

• BZP (Benzylpiperazine ) and related piperazines, which are stimulants taken as an  alternative to amphetamine, will be controlled as Class C drugs.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"There is a perception that many of the so called “legal highs” are harmless, however in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis.
 
“Legal highs are an emerging threat, particularly to young people, and we have a duty to educate them about the dangers. That’s why we are also launching a campaign in September to highlight the risks.”

Professor David Nutt, Chair of the ACMD, said:

“We welcome the Government’s decision to accept our advice and bring GBL; BZP; 1,4-butanediol; synthetic cannabinoids and 24 anabolic steroids within the Misuse of Drugs Act.
 
“We made these recommendations as it is important to highlight that these are in fact dangerous drugs, especially when mixed with alcohol.
 
“The ACMD are continuing work on other “legal highs” and will provide recommendations on separate drugs throughout the year, based on prevalence and harms.”

In addition, a further 24 anabolic steroids, testosterone-like products often used by sports people and increasingly being used by the general public to enhance physique and strength, and  two growth promoters will be added to the list of steroids already controlled as Class C drugs. Finally, although there is no evidence of misuse in the UK but in accordance with our obligations under the UN Conventions, we will also seek to control the precursor Oripvaine as a Class C drug.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Gamma-Butyrolactone (GBL) and its like chemical 1,4-Butanediol (1,4-BD) are converted into GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the body which has been citied in cases of date rape. GBL is a colourless, oily liquid, with a weak odour.  Both substances can reduce inhibitions, cause nausea, reduced heart rate and even death. Both are particularly dangerous when taken with alcohol and other depressant substances. Options for control of these substances were subject to public consultation which finished on 13 August. A summary of the consultation responses will be published in due course. The Government’s decision to control GBL and 1,4-BD for human consumption takes fully into account the use of these chemicals for legitimate purposes.The  ACMD’s  advice  can be found at http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/

2. Benzylpiperazine (BZP) and related piperazines – are man-made stimulants taken as an alternative to amphetamine. They can cause a rush of energy, agitation, vomiting and headaches. They can come in many shapes and forms, including pills and powders. Control of these substances was subject to public consultation which finished on 13 August. A summary of the consultation responses will be published in due course. The  ACMD’s advice  can be found at http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/

3. Synthetic cannabinoids – are man-made chemicals that mimic the psychoactive effects of tetrahydroncannabinol (THC) the active ingredient in cannabis. They can be sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’.  The ACMD advice, published on 12 August, can be found at http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/

4. Anabolic Steroids - details of the 24 steroids and two growth promoters and ACMD’s advice are available at http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/ and were subject to consultation which finished on 13 August. A summary of the consultation responses will be published in due course.

5. Oripvaine  - an alkaloid found in poppy straw of the opium poppy which  can be converted into thebaine and used in the production of semi-synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. There is presently no evidence of its misuse in the UK but the UK is obligated to control oripavine under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 following its international control under the UN 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The ACMD advise that Oripavine is controled as a class C drug. Its advice can be found at http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/

6. So called ‘legal highs’ are substances that are taken to achieve an altered state of mind (a “high”), that are not currently controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. However, most of these substances are illegal to sell, supply or advertise for human consumption because of their effects on the body under medicines legislation. To view the March 2009 commissioning letter from the then Home Secretary to the ACMD on so called “legal highs” and other areas - see http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/reports-research/
 
7. A drug is brought under control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 by Order made by the Privy Council following approval of the Order by both Houses of Parliament (via the affirmative resolution procedure). The Parliamentary process will start when Parliament return after Summer recess in October in order to bring in drug controls by the end of the year.

8. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD)  is a non-departmental public body established by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The ACMD provides independent expert advice to ministers on drug misuse - primarily to the Home Office, but also to other Government Departments. To view the ACMD’s advice to government visit: http://drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs-laws/acmd/reports-research/

9. For details of the government’s drug strategy visit www.drugs.homeoffice.gov.uk

10. For further information please contact the Home Office Press Office 020 7035 3535

Some facts about so called ‘legal highs’
 
What are they?
•    So called ‘legal highs’ are substances that are taken to achieve an altered state of mind (a “high”), that are not currently controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, and therefore are legal to possess.

•    There are a large number of substances, some sold under brand names, known as ‘legal highs’, some examples are: GBL1, BZP2, Mephedrone, and “Spice”.

•    They can be called all kinds of names, for example: Legal E, Party Pills, Fast Lane, Silver Bullet.

•    Some legal highs can have similar effects to stimulant or depressant drugs that are illegal, such as euphoria and reduced inhibitions, and a range of side effects such as paranoia, fits and even a risk of coma or death.
 
What you need to know
•    You usually can’t know exactly what you’re really taking if you take a ‘legal high’, so the effects can be very unpredictable

•    Just because they are legal to possess doesn’t mean they are safe

•    Most of theses substances are illegal to sell, supply, or advertise for human consumption, under medicines legislation, because of their effects on the body.

•     Legal highs can contain a range of potentially dangerous chemicals, and their chemical makeup changes all the time - so you can never be 100% certain what you have bought, and what the effects might be

•     The chemicals in legal highs have, in most cases, never before been used as drugs, so have had no tests performed on them to show that they are safe. Nor do they have a long history of use, so that health problems would have become apparent.

•     Legal highs can carry a serious health risk

•     Some legal highs, such as GBL, have been implicated in some cases of death

•     You increase the risk if you combine alcohol with any substance that causes a ‘high’, including the risk of death.
 
The risks
•     Risks range from reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures, and death.

•     The risks are increased if you combine taking legal highs with alcohol or other depressant or stimulant substances.

•     Because they are new, and the chemical makeup of many legal highs is constantly changing, the risks are unpredictable and are often still being analysed

What does the law say?
•     Even though some substances may not be controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 – for example, in the same way as cannabis and cocaine are - it can still be illegal to sell, supply or advertise them under medicines legislation.

•     Many suppliers use descriptions such as bath salts, plant food, research chemicals,  fertiliser and cleaning fluid, or statements such as ‘not for human consumption’ in order to try to get around the law.

•     Subject to Parliamentary agreement, the Government will make a number of these so called ‘legal highs’ illegal under the 1971 Act, by the end of the year. These are GBL (and its like chemical 1,4-Butanediol (1,4-BD) (when intended for human consumption only); BZP and its related compounds (such as mCPP,TFMPP and others); and synthetic cannabinoids (such as those found in “Spice”).

•     The Government and its advisers, the ACMD (Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs) continue to monitor the risks and harms from a variety of legal and illegal substances.  The Government is committed to take action against other so called ‘legal highs’ that pose a significant health risk.

•     In March this year (2009), the ACMD was commissioned by the Government to look at the harms and availability of so called ‘legal highs’. Its advice on synthetic cannabinoids3 is the first output of this work.

•    As a priority of the ACMD’s thematic review, it will be looking at the ‘cathinone’ compounds4, which include Mephedrone. Its advice will inform government’s response to these substances.
 
What else is Class B?

Subject to Parliamentary agreement, synthetic cannabinoids will be controlled under the 1971 Act as Class B drugs.
•     Class B drugs include: cannabis and amphetamine5. 

•    You can get up to five years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both, for possession, and up to 14 years in prison, or an unlimited fine, or both, for dealing.
 
What else is Class C?
Subject to Parliamentary agreement,  GBL and 1,4-BD, (when intended for human consumption only), as well as  BZP and its related compounds will be controlled under the 1971 Act as Class C drugs.

•    Class C drugs include: tranquillisers, steroids, Ketamine, and GHB.

•     You can get up to two years in prison, or an unlimited fine, or both, for possession, and up to 14 years in prison, or an unlimited fine, or both, for dealing.
 
Last year FRANK received 129 calls about legal/herbal highs (0.22% of all calls)

To find out about the effects and risks of using legal substances, call FRANK on 0800 77 66 00.



What is it?

What are the effects?

What does the law say?

Name: GBL

To be made illegal by end of year when intended for human consumption (subject to Parliamentary approval) 

·      GBL (gamma-butyrolactone) is closely related to the illegal drug gamma-hydroxybutrate (GHB); both are dangerous drugs with sedative and anaesthetic effects.

·      GBL converts to GHB shortly after entering the body.

·      GBL is a colourless, oily liquid with a weak odour.  It is a common solvent used in products like paint strippers and stain removers.

·      GHB is usually sold as an odourless liquid in small bottles or capsules (it does come in powder form but is rarer).

·      It tastes slightly salty.

·       A teaspoon or a capful is a normal dose although the strength of GHB varies so it can be very difficult for people to know how much they’re taking.

·      The effects start between 10 minutes to one hour and can last up to seven hours or so.

·      They both produce a feeling of euphoria and can reduce your inhibitions and make you feel sleepy.

·      Both can cause nausea, reduced heart rate, drowsiness, coma, hyphothermia, seizures, unconsciousness, coma and death.

·      Both are particularly dangerous when used with alcohol and other depressant or sedative substances, including recreational drugs.

·      GBL is currently a legal product used widely in industry and found in a number of retail products.

·      GBL (and its like chemical 1,4-Butanediol (1,4-BD)) will be illegal by the end of year as Class C drugs under the 1971 Act (subject to Parliamentary approval) with possession and supply limited where they are intended for human consumption.

·      GHB is a Class C drug - illegal to have, give away or sell. Possession can get you up to two years in jail and/or an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else with GHB, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.

·      The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that it is an offence to administer a substance to a person with intent to overpower that person to enable sexual activity with them. Therefore, if GBL (and GHB) are linked to drug assisted sexual assault, it is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment.

·      Illegal to supply for human consumption under medicines legislation

Name: Piperazines -  BZP (Benzylpiperazine) and related compounds (such as mCPP,TFMPP and others)

Street/brand name: BZP, Party Pills, Fast Lane, Silver Bullet, Smiley’s Happy Pills, Bolts Extra Strength

To be made illegal by end of year as Class C drugs (subject to Parliamentary approval).  

·      BZP is a piperazine and  may come as a tablet, capsule or an off-white powder

·      BZP pills can come in many shapes or forms, may sometimes be sold as "ecstasy", and may also marketed under various names depending on the country.

·      BZP is a derivative of piperazine. Unlike the parent substance piperazine, BZP was originally evaluated as an antidepressant drug; it was never intended as an anthelminthic drug.

·      Piperazine is used as an anti-helminthic drug as an anti-worming agent for farm animals.

·      The reported effects when administered are those of a stimulant somewhat like amphetamine, although reportedly less potent.

·      The effects can last for 6-8 hours, depending on the dose taken.

·      It can cause decreased appetite and wakefulness/difficulty sleeping.

·      The next day, some users may feel headachy and tired.

·      At present there are few reliable reports detailing the full range of possible adverse side effects.  However, it may cause collapse, fits, potentially life threatening seizures, nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, hypertension, anxiety, and agitation.

·      BZP and some of the related compounds have been found in combination with MDMA and  amphetamine.

·      BZP and related compounds (such as mCPP,TFMPP and others) will be illegal by end of year as Class C drugs (subject to Parliamentary approval) with possession and supply offences under the 1971 Act.

·      The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK announced in March 2007 that BZP and related products, for human consumption, were subject to medicines legislation.

·      Selling, supplying, or advertising piperazine products for human consumption is illegal and vendors may face prosecution under medicines legislation.

·      It is not currently an offence to possess piperazine products.

Name: Synthetic cannabinoids agonists (found in “Spice” and possibly other like products); JWH-018

Street/Brand name: Spice 

To be illegal by end of year as Class C drugs (subject to Parliamentary approval with a generic definition used)

 

·      Some products are reported to be imported from China and sold in the UK and other EU countries.

·      Herbal mixes – commonly sold under the brand name “Spice”.

·      Tobacco and cannabis-free and a blend of various “inert” plant ingredients

·      However, synthetic cannabinoids have been found to be sprayed on to the herbal mix – for the purpose of acheiving intoxication and a cannabis like effect – and these products may therefore pose a serious health risk.

·      There are a number of Spice products (Spice Silver, Spice Gold, Spice Diamond, Spice Arctic Synergy, Spice Tropical Synergy, Spice Egypt, Spice Yukatan Fire) currently available, predominantly via the internet but also is specialist/ “headshops”.

·      There are a large number of potential cannabinoids that can be synthesised, the predominant chemical family is the JWH family e.g.  JWH-018

·      There is no evidence (yet) that identified cannabinoids are present in all Spice (or Spice-like) products.

·      Synthetic cannabinoids mimic the psychoactive effects of  tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active principle in cannabis. 

·      Though there is little direct evidence about their harms, the ACMD conclude that it is very likely that these synthetic cannabinoids will produce harmful effects similar to those associated with THC.

·      The ACMD also advise that the substances containing the synthetic cannabinoids have the potential to be more harmful than cannabis due to their method of manufacture and that the compounds present and their quantity (and hence potency) is unknown to the user.

·      Some compounds may have a very long duration of action.

·      Some batches of the product might be much more or less potent than others.

IT Legacy Contract Disaggregation: The Clock is Ticking Fast...