Drug misuse and dependency

Supporting detail:

New psychoactive substances

The pattern of drugs use is constantly evolving, and there are always new drug threats to consider. New psychoactive substances (so-called ‘legal highs’) frequently contain substances that are not legal and cannot be assumed safe.

New psychoactive substances have become a particular concern in recent years with supply and demand increasing. The availability of these substances, especially over the internet and in ‘head shops’, has radically changed the nature of the drugs market.

We have:

  • published an action plan to combat new psychoactive substances, which sets out our approach to fighting the threat from emerging substances

  • introduced the temporary class drug order, which bans newly identified harmful drugs within days- an order can last for up to 12 months and is implemented following initial advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and remains in place while the Advisory Council’s full report on the substance is prepared

  • implemented a forensic early warning system, which detects new psychoactive substances in the UK - the forensic early warning system annual report describes the system and provides results on the analysis of samples tested

The drugs early warning system involves issuing alerts and receiving information from a wide variety of partners. It has provided valuable intelligence on the prevalence and harms associated with methoxetamine, synthetic cannabinoids and 5 and 6 APB.

Information sharing and collection

The UK has taken the opportunity of the G8 presidency to lead on tackling the threat of new psychoactive substances with other G8 member states, the UN and the EU. The sharing of information among international partners on the emergence of new substances, their impact on public health and the supply routes is invaluable in addressing the challenge.

The G8 have agreed a statement of intent to progress our close joint working on this.