Press release

Import ban of new 'legal high' phenazepam introduced

The government has today announced that it will ban the importation of phenazepam a harmful drug advertised as a ‘legal high’.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The importation ban will mean that from midnight tonight (00:00 Thursday 21 July 2011) the UK Border Agency is able to seize and destroy any shipments of phenazepam found at UK borders. This follows advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) which recommended the move to cut the supply of this harmful drug and stop it gaining a foothold in the UK.

Baroness Browning Minister for Crime Prevention and antisocial behaviour said:

‘We are committed to tackling emerging new drugs and stopping them gaining a foothold in this country. Banning the importation of this harmful substance and taking steps to control it, sends a clear message to unscrupulous traffickers and dealers trying to start a market here for their dangerous drugs.

‘Our law enforcement agencies are already working closely with international partners to prevent drugs reaching our streets in the first place and we are creating a new border policing command as part of the National Crime Agency to better tackle international drug gangs.

‘The ACMD’s advice on phenazepam reinforces what we already know – that substances touted as ‘legal highs’ contain dangerous and illegal substances. Users need to understand they could be breaking the law and risk seriously damaging their mental and physical health.’

The government recently launched its Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) which is improving our ability to identify new drugs coming into the UK market. FEWS was created in response to growing concerns about the rise in use of so-called ‘legal highs’ and puts the UK at the forefront of international efforts to tackle the issue. It includes developing a co-ordinated UK-wide approach to laboratory testing and analysis of drug seizures, as well as wider test purchasing.

Alongside this, with the successful passage of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill later this year, the government will have a new 12 month ‘temporary banning power’ for new psychoactive substances to allow it to take immediate action to protect the public while the ACMD fully assess the harms they pose.

Notes to editors

1. The ACMD’s official advice to the government can be found at

2. Further details on the ACMD and their role can be found at

3. Phenazepam is a benzodiazepine. A number of benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and midazolam, are already controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class C drugs.

4. Details of the Open General Import Licence (OGIL), under which an importation ban is made, can be found at The Notice to Industry on the amendment to the OGIL for phenazepam.

5. The government has introduced legislative proposals for a new 12 month temporary banning power for new psychoactive substances to protect the public while the ACMD assess the harms they pose.

6. The government launched its drug strategy in December 2010.

7. Industry enquiries about the importation ban of phenazepam should be directed to:
Home Office
Drugs Licensing & Compliance Unit
4th Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

8. Email:

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

Published 21 July 2011