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Lethal highs – willing to dice with your life?

The aim of our Lethal Highs campaign is to inform young people, parents and people who work with young people of the changes in the law relating to psychoactive substances, and how it could impact them/their friends/relatives/pupils and to educate people on the consequences of taking these substances.


What are Psychoactive Substances?

Psychoactive Substances have similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy or cannabis. They are also known as club drugs or legal highs.

Under The Psychoactive Substances Act – introduced 26 May 2016 a psychoactive substance is defined as: a drug capable of affecting a person’s mental functioning or emotional state, but is not currently controlled as a class A, B or C drug.

So are things like alcohol and caffeine included under the Psychoactive Substances Act?

There are a number of exemptions to the Act including:

  • Substances already controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act (Class A, B and C drugs)
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Medicinal products
  • “Poppers” or alkyl nitrites

Synthetic cannabinoids (like Spice) are now a Class B drug and illegal to possess, even for personal use

So what is the law?

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) it is illegal to:

  • Produce
  • Supply
  • Offer to supply
  • Import

This applies to any psychoactive substance, if it is likely to be used for its psychoactive effects, regardless of its potential for harm.

Crowd of people dancing at a festival with their arms up, while confetti rains down

But how does this affect me?

The Psychoactive Substances Act is mainly targeted at manufacturers and retailers of psychoactive substances and aims to disrupt the supply chain and impose significant penalties for those involved in the production and distribution.

However the individual could be affected in a number of ways:

  • The importing of a psychoactive substance includes buying them from a non-UK based website, which could lead to individuals being prosecuted.
  •  The offence to ‘supply’ refers not just to selling psychoactive substances but also covers giving them away for example sharing them with friends

Having a criminal record could impact on your future study, employment and travel plans

What are the risks of taking legal highs?

  •  You could experience nose bleeds, sickness, black outs, short-term memory loss, severe mood swings, anxiety, panic, confusion, paranoia, or seizures to name just a few side effects
  • For some the effects are more serious with their night ending in A&E or in death
  • They can cause serious problems to mental health such as hallucinations, paranoia, anxiety, mood swings
  • These substances  can reduce inhibitions, and cause changes in behaviour that can lead you to doing things totally out of character or make you take greater risks than you would normally

But I have taken them before and been fine…

The ingredients in legal highs can change and so can the quantities –  so you can never know what you are taking or the strength of the product.

Even if you were fine last time, the next time could be a different story

Download the Flyer

Find out more or get support

General information:

Angelus foundation

Talk to Frank

Strange molecules

Health advice

NHS Choices

Support Services

Catch22 – Support services for young people in Hampshire

Parent Support Link  – Support services for families

No Limits – Support services for young people and families in Southampton

Pushing Change – Peer led community support in Portsmouth

Partner Resource area

If you would like to support the Youth Commission’s Lethal Highs campaign, we provide can access to resources.  If you need access to the resources, please enter your details in the Contact Form, select Youth Commission from the drop-down list, and specify that you are requesting access to the Lethal Highs resources.