What are Psychoactive Substances?
Sometimes unhelpfully known as ‘legal highs’, Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS’s) are used like illegal drugs but are not covered by the current misuse of drugs laws, and so they are legal to possess or to use. Although these drugs are marketed as legal substances, this does not mean that they are safe or approved for people to use. People can die from first use. Some drugs marketed as ‘legal highs’ actually contain some ingredients that are illegal to possess. A basic overview of psychoactive substances and the law are covered in this video Psychoactive substances can carry serious health risks. The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been used in drugs for human consumption before, so haven’t been tested to show that they are safe. Users can never be certain what they are taking and what the effects might be. Psychoactive substances are usually sold on internet sites or in ‘head shops’ labelled as plant food, bath salts or herbal remedies. They may also be labelled ‘not for human consumption’. What do Psychoactive substances look like? They can come in many forms including pills, powders, leaf-like materials and pellets and can therefore be consumed in a variety of routes (snorting, orally, smoked). They often mimic the effects of illegal categories of drugs and the main psychoactive substance groups are:
· predominantly sedative drugs
· predominantly stimulant drugs
· hallucinogens and psychedelic drugs
· synthetic cannabinoids
· dissociative drugs
They are generally marketed and packaged in bright colours with eye catching images and ‘fun’ names – some recently known ones have been called Pink Panther, Cherry Bomb, Disco biscuits, Clockwork orange, Mary Joy, Vanilla Sky and hundreds more: More information about the different types of drugs and psychoactive substances can be found on the Talk to Frank website, which offers the facts, a glossary and advice. Getting help and harm reduction information If you are concerned about someone’s use of drugs or psychoactive substances, there are a number of support services available, in addition to Talk to Frank above:
- Change, Grow, Live – a social care and health charity, which details local support services
- Catch22 – specialist substance misuse treatment for young people, referrals can be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- Drug & Alcohol Recovery Service (Substance Misuse) – NHS Solent local services
- Addaction – national organisation that supports adults, young people and families affected by addiction
Ultimately, it is safer not to use drugs or psychoactive substances at all. You can find out about the dangers and harm reduction advice from the following sources:
- The Site – factsheets, articles & videos on key issues facing young people including alcohol, drugs & relationships
- The Angelus Foundation – information to help increase individuals knowledge about risks to their health from psychoactive substances
Further resources and guides Many of the websites listed above include leaflets, guides and other materials around psychoactive substances, drugs and related topics. Some have been collated below for you to download directly along with some other useful websites:
- Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs – makes recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs.
- Drugwise – A charity who are a primary source of independent information on drugs and drug related issues .
- Substance.org.uk – a source of substance misuse resources and publications.
- Release – national centre of expertise on drugs and drugs law.
- Angelus parents guide – Legal Highs and Club Drugs, a Parents Handbook: Angelus Foundation
- Legal Highs Leaflet – Talk to Frank
- Does your child know more than you – a leaflet by Talk to Frank
- Glues Gases Aerosols – Talk to Frank leaflet
- Head shop leaflet – Some basic facts
- Use Your Head – Harm reduction information booklet
- Legal Highs FAQs – Oasis Partnership advice booklet
Motiv8 Music project – raising awareness of NPS’s
Funded by the OPPC Innovations Fund, the project aims to raise awareness of the dangers of NPS’s to young people and their parents in Gosport. An awareness campaign has included promotion of this webpage, social media messages and surveys at local events to both adults and young people. At one of these, interviews were carried out by a local media company and broadcast on BBC South Today on Friday 29th May 2015 – you can watch this on our Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/safergosport (Clip courtesey of BBC South Today)
Young people have written and produced songs about the dangers of NPS’s and will also be designing the artwork for CD covers and promotional materials. They are also producing an accompanying documentary. All of these will be used in educational settings, on social media and websites.
Real life stories and personal experiences are being used to inform the songs and messages, with peer to peer support where possible. A showcase event is being planned by young people at Gosport Summer Passport 2015, where young people will perform their songs. In the Queen’s Speech on 27 May 2015, the government announced that:
new legislation will … ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.
The Psychoactive Substances Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 28 May. The bill will apply across the UK. Progress on the bill will be updated periodically on this page.