Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

This page contains an overview of the Psychoactive Substances Act and supporting documents.

The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent on 28 January 2016. The act applies across the UK and will come into force on 26 May 2016.

The act:

  • makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment

  • excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

  • exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research from the offences under the act on the basis that persons engaged in such activities have a legitimate need to use psychoactive substances in their work

  • includes provision for civil sanctions – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders (breach of the 2 orders will be a criminal offence) – to enable the police and local authorities to adopt a graded response to the supply of psychoactive substances in appropriate cases

  • provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances


These are documents relating to the act.

Where can I find more information?

The Psychoactive Substances Act and the accompanying explanatory notes are available on the Parliament website.

Other reports

Both the Scottish Government and the National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care Committee conducted reviews into psychoactive substances.

The Scottish Government report

The National Assembly for Wales report

Background documents

Published 29 May 2015
Last updated 19 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Review of the operation of the act published.

  2. Updated to include guidance for retailers and researchers ahead of the commencement of the act

  3. Updated to include the date the act comes into force

  4. Information about the new act published.

  5. First published.