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Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline

Freephone: 0808 808 2234
Or text DAN to: 81066

New Psychoactive Substances

'Novel Psychoactive Substances', 'NPS', 'Legal Highs', 'Research Chemicals', 'New and Emerging Drugs', 'Designer Drugs', 'Herbal Highs' are all terms used to describe new substances that have swamped the drug market in recent years.

What do New Psychoactive Substances look like?

Various - Tablets, crystalline powder, solids, liquids etc?

New Psychoactive Substances

Research chemicals, New / Novel Psychoactive Substances, New & Emerging Drugs, 'Legal Highs'

About New Psychoactive Substances

A huge variety of new Psychoactive substances have become available in the last 25 years, marketed as safer and legal alternatives to illicit drugs whilst mimicking their effects. They are often made in laboratories and sold via the Internet. With a huge number of chemicals currently available (and can potentially be produced) the UK government have brought in changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act in an attempt to classify the chemicals and any derivatives of them.

Suppliers consequently market them labelled as plant food, bath crystals, research chemicals, or pond cleaner in order to disguise their recreational use and get around the drug laws. Some substances may not yet be controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act, but may be controlled under the Medicines Act.

Slang Names include: Benzofury, Bounce, Charge, Chicken Powder, Dimitri, Dr. Death, Drone, Frenzy, Ivory Wave, Killer, M-Kat, N-Bomb, Pink Ecstasy, Rave, Sparkle, Red Mitsubishi, White Magic, White Pearl, Woof-Woof, Vanilla Sky, 5-IT, 7-Up and many many more.

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that are made to act like the active part of Cannabis, slang names include Spice, Black Mamba and Blue Cheese amongst others.

Effects Of New Psychoactive Substances

Desired Effects:

Varied. Many substances will have Stimulant or Hallucinogenic effects or a combination of both.


Varied. See individual substances for more information, if available.




Very little controlled research is available for these substances and therefore side effects and possible dangers are not yet fully known. Even if a substance is sold as 'legal' or 'herbal' does not mean that it is safe for consumption. Deaths have been reported as a result of using these substances.

Risks may include confusion, drowsiness, Paranoia, manic behaviour, panic, heart attack, Coma, seizures and death. Experimenting with these substances is risky as no-one can be certain what they are taking or how they will react. See individual substances for more information, if available.

Reducing Harm

Please view our Reducing Harm page for more information.

How do New Psychoactive Substances work?

The main effects of almost all Psychoactive substances, including 'legal highs', can be defined with three categories: Stimulants, Depressants, and Hallucinogens (Psychedelics).

Legal status

The new Psychoactive Substances Act came into force on 26th May 2016

There are potentially hundreds of chemical analogues (a compound with a molecular structure closely similar to that of another) being created by chemists around the world, so as soon as one new drug is identified and banned many more are being produced to take its place. The UK government brought in new measures to deal with these substances: the power to invoke a temporary class drug order on a substance which is raising sufficient concern for up to 12 months, on consideration of initial advice from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, while full expert advice is being prepared; and the implementation of a forensic early warning system (FEWS), which detects new Psychoactive substances in the UK.

Changes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, now controlling the NBOMe Compounds (Class A) and the Benzofuran Compounds (Class B) use a generic definition from June 2014, which means that a range of chemicals, including their simple derivatives, can be controlled. Therefore any current, future or foreseeable substances that are created from these chemical compounds will also be controlled under the Act.

Mephedrone and NRG1 (Naphyrone) have become Class B drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

In addition, these chemicals may contain other substances which could be more dangerous in combination or could be illegal to posses. Some drugs sold as 'legal' actually have been found to contain one or more substances that are illegal. Many can also look very similar to other illegal drugs, such as Cocaine, so if the police find one of these substances in your possession they are entitled to confiscate it for testing, detain you or even arrest you.

How Are New Psychoactive Substances Taken?

Some may be smoked, taken orally as Tablets, snorted in powder form or injected.

Where do they come from?

Some may be derived from intoxicating plant species; some may be chemicals made in laboratories. Substances may be imported; sold over the internet and in some specialist shops.

Helping services

Most areas of the UK have 'street agencies' or projects (sometimes called community drug services or community drug teams) which offer a range of services including information and advice, counselling, and sometimes support groups and complementary therapies such as acupuncture. Some services have extended working hours and may offer weekend support. If use of this substance becomes a problem you can seek help, advice and counselling from a service in your area. GPs can make referrals to specialist drug services. For a description of what the different drug services do, choose helping services from here or the main menu.

Parents & other relatives

Many drug agencies also provide lots of advice and support to parents, family members and partners of people using drugs. They may provide relative support groups or advice, guidance and counselling on a one to one basis.

You can view a list of National Drug Agencies.

If you would like to talk about New Psychoactive Substances problems then please call the DAN 24/7 Helpline on:

0808 808 2234