While 'legal highs' mimic the effects of illegal drugs (such as cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines), their chemical structure is slightly different, meaning they avoid being classified as illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
The 'Crazy Chemist' featured on the campaign posters
Temporary bans Action on stopping 'legal highs' coming on to the market is a priority for the government. The coalition agreement states, 'We will introduce a system of temporary bans on new "legal highs" while health issues are considered by independent experts. We will not permanently ban a substance without receiving full advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.'
'Legal highs' pose a significant health risk, so banning is a public health measure. A ban sends a clear message to users of 'legal highs' (including young people who may be considering trying them), and to those selling them. Young people in particular may equate legal with safe and do not always understand that these drugs carry real risks.
Mephedrone (often referred to as 'meow meow'), an earlier legal high, was made a class B drug in April 2010, while Naphyrone (often sold as 'NRG-1') was made a class B drug on 23 July 2010. Both these drugs are now illegal to have, sell or give away.