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Legal highs or Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are substances designed to produce the same or similar effects to drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy but are structurally different enough to avoid being controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption so they are often sold as bath salts, incense, plant food or advertised as 'not for human consumption' to get round the law. The packaging may describe a list of ingredients but you cannot be sure that is what the product will contain.
Just because a substance is sold as ‘legal’ doesn’t mean that it’s safe or legal. You can’t really be sure of what’s in a ‘legal high’ you’ve bought or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends. We know that many ‘legal highs’ are sold under brand names like ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Bliss’ and ‘Mary Jane’ and have been directly linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions including in mental health services and in some cases deaths.
The main effects of almost all ‘psychoactive’ drugs including ‘legal highs’ can be described using three main categories:
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