'Legal highs': Street dealers now main source of supply after ban

Street Dealers Now Main Source of ‘Legal Highs’

A report has suggested that sales of “legal highs” have moved underground following a blanket ban on them in the UK. Even though this ban has caused something of a reduction in people using these drugs, street dealers have now become the primary supply for customers.

These drugs, known officially as “new psychoactive substances” or NPS, can mimic the effects of taking other, harder, drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, and cocaine.

These drugs were available out in the open, often through specialist stores, until May 2016. Since the introduction of the Psychoactive Substance Act (PSA), they can no longer be sold in stores, known as head shops, according to a Home Office review.

The Home Office says that 31 of these establishments have closed, while 382 more stopped selling NPS drugs. The prices for the drugs are increasing, and there has been a “significant” drop in the amount of people using them.

The report does warn that the drugs are becoming more potent though, with advanced strains being produced and sold. That suggests the ban hasn’t completely ended the fight between law enforcement and the people producing NPS drugs.

You Can Still Find Them

The Home Office review also suggests the ban could have caused vulnerable NPS users to go back to legitimate drugs like cocaine and cannabis because they can’t find their alternatives. Ministers considered the legality of the drugs because they were linked to dozens of deaths.

According to the report, the open sale of these NPS drugs has been practically eliminated and that use of NPS has drastically dropped for the general population. On top of this, there has been a drop in the health-related harm of these drugs, which is likely caused by the drop in their usage.

One cause for concern since the introduction of the ban is that use of synthetic cannabinoids continues to remain high with homeless people and the prison population. The report suggests the primary NPS of choice for prisoners is Spice.

Offenders are looking at a potential of seven years in prison under the act, and civil orders have bee used to close down head shops and online dealers.

Police report 492 arrests were made in the first six months following the implementation of the ban. The police also conducted 1,523 NPS seizures in 2017/2018

Legal Highs in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020/21 saw another shift in the market for the sale of legal highs. With people often unable to meet in public, sales of legal highs and other drugs started to be transacted through the dark web or social media. Many users started buying drugs on the dark web and this lead to an alarming increase of drug sales through that channel, with most drugs being sent to users through the post.

Photo Credit: “Legal Drug” (CC BY 2.0) by danbri

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated regularly since.

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