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Harmful ‘legal highs’ to be banned

25 August 2009

Several chemicals used on herbal smoking products and other so called ‘legal highs’, will be banned by the end of the year.

The list includes the chemical solvent GBL. Some of the substances have similar effects to stimulants or depressant illegal drugs, and have a range of side-effects such as paranoia and fits. Some even carry a risk of coma or death.

The decision follows a public consultation in which we asked what you thought about the control of some of these substances, based on proposals put together by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Which substances will be banned?

The following will all be banned, subject to parliamentary approval:

  • GBL (Gamma-Butyrolactone) and a similar chemical – which are converted in to the Class C drug GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyrate) in the body and often used as ‘club drugs’. They will be controlled as Class C drugs and banned when intended for human consumption.
  • Synthetic cannabinoids - man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’, which act on the body in a similar way to cannabis but can be far more potent, will be controlled as a Class B drug alongside cannabis.
  • BZP (Benzylpiperazine) and related piperazines, which are stimulants taken as an alternative to amphetamine, will be controlled as Class C drugs.

For more information on these substances, please read the fact-sheet on the Home Office press website (new window).

Legal highs not harmless

Home Secretary Alan Johnson said, ‘There is a perception that many of the so called “legal highs” are harmless, however in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis.
‘Legal highs are an emerging threat, particularly to young people, and we have a duty to educate them about the dangers.’

New education campaign

The government will also be running a new campaign to educate young people on the danger of ‘legal highs’. The campaign will launch during the student Freshers’ week in September.

More anabolic steroids also to be banned

In addition, a further 24 anabolic steroids, testosterone-like products often used by sports people and increasingly being used by the general public, and two growth promoters will be classified as Class C drugs.

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