Legal Highs

Legal highs are steadily rising in popularity as an alternative to taking illegal drugs.

We look at what they are as well as their effects and consequences.

Legal Highs

What are Legal Highs?

Legal highs are substances that closely imitate the effects of illegal drugs, such as cocaine, cannabis or ecstasy. There a wide range of legal highs available to act as stimulants, depressants and even hallucinogens.

Legal highs usually come in a powder, pill or capsule form and can be ingested or snorted. There are also instances of legal highs being injected with syringes. Since many of these drugs are relatively new, they have not been added to the list of substances that are controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.


Are they safe?

The answer to this question is not straight forward. The reason why they are “legal” is that there is not enough research to confirm what the short and long term risks are. However, there have been many cases of legal highs having disastrous consequences as a result of both their short and long term effects. These risks are increased when consumed with alcohol.

There have also been examples where a legal high will contain illegal substances. When the risks are relatively unknown, it can potentially make the substances even more dangerous. When things go wrong, it can be very difficult to treat.


What does the law say?

Legal highs are not controlled by the Drugs Misuse Act, which makes them legal to possess. However, many of these drugs are not allowed to be sold for human consumption. As a result, many distributors will describe them as plant food or bath salts or simply print “not for human consumption” on the packet.

Many legal highs are being added to the list of substances controlled by the Drugs Misuse Act as more research becomes available about them. These include mephedrone, naphyrone, BZP, GBL and synthetic cannabinoids.



John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years’ experience in providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John is also the co-author of the book, 'The Secret Disease of Addiction' which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.