News story

ACMD recommends permanent ban on two “legal highs”

Experts have today called on the government to permanently ban two groups of “legal highs”.


The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommends NBOMe drugs, which have a hallucinogenic affect similar to LSD, are controlled as Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

It further recommends the group of stimulants known as Benzofury are controlled as Class B drugs.

Both substances have been linked to a series of hospital admissions and a small number of deaths. In June, following advice from the ACMD, the government placed both under Temporary Class Drug Orders. Today’s recommendations have been made after further assessment of the harms associated with both groups of drugs.

Professor Les Iversen, Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, said:

People should be under no illusion, these substances marketed as so-called ‘legal highs’ can cause serious damage to your health.

The NBOMe group are extremely potent and both of the sets of compounds have been linked to deaths in the UK. People using these substances are experimenting on themselves, leaving them at risk of overdose and without knowing what the long-term effects could be.

The ACMD has produced a report for the Home Office, which will now consider this advice before making a decision.


These drugs are commonly used in blotter or powder form. Users can experience an altered state of reality, known as a “trip”, as well as shaking, nausea, insomnia and paranoia.

They are known by street names including Bom-25, N-Bomb and Smiley Paper. In May the Serious Organised Crime Agency reported to the ACMD that large quantities of 25I-NBOMe had arrived in the UK from producers in China.

Following advice from the ACMD, NBOMe drugs were placed under a Temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO) in June this year.

6-APB and 5-APB – “Benzofury”

In 2011, the UK’s Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) identified the Benzofury compounds as likely to be of interest. Prior to the TCDO, Benzofurans were known as a legal form of ecstasy and were on sale as a powder or “pellets” - with packaging that often stated the contents were not for human consumption.

Benzofury products give users a rush by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Long term use could put users at risk of a heart attack. Taking Benzofury can also lead to paranoia, anxiety and even psychotic episodes.

The ACMD has gathered anecdotal evidence which suggests prior to the TCDO, “Benzofury” products were found in the majority of shops selling “legal highs” and were one of the most popular items.

Published 28 November 2013