Report on NPS: UK-registered websites closed down – 7 February

The adherence to UK legislation by online shops selling new psychoactive substances

07 Feb
On the 26th of May 2016, the UK Government introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act, 2016. The aim of this short report is to explore online shops selling New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) stated motivations for closing and the changes that arose preceding the ban.
Methods: The search for online shops selling NPS was made throughout October 2015. From March to June 2016, data were collected on the status of the online shops, and whether they mentioned the ban, the delay, or their closure.
Results: From the original 113 online shops, only 52% remained open.
Those that remained were either based overseas (65%), removed NPS and became a headshop (19%), or were inactive (16%). Only 24% of UK-registered websites remained open after the ban.
Conclusions: UK-registered websites closed down or moved domain locations and no longer sold to UK customers. UK-registered websites communicated with customers at each stage of the legislation. It is unknown whether the UK retailers have ceased selling NPS or have been displaced to underground markets (street level dealing or the hidden web). The majority of shops in this study were located in Europe or North America, showing that there is still high demand in both continents.

Figure 1. The domain locations of the online shops before and after the ban.




In this episode of Drugs Map of Britain call themselves The Children of Ecstasy.

Once associated with rave culture, students like Marc are now using ecstasy and MDMA to help them socialise, and open up to their friends. But, with the pills and crystal stronger than ever, what risks are they taking in search of a great night out?

See also BBC

Calling For Youth Ambassadors – Luton Project Aware

Project Aware

‘Project Aware’ Luton is an initiative which partners Angelus with Luton Borough Council to inform young people of the risks of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) formerly called ‘legal highs’. In February 2015, their unpredictable effects caused six teenagers from a school in Luton to be hospitalised after they took an untested substance. Luton BC now works with Angelus on a harm-reduction campaign that aims to educate and deter risk-seeking behavior in at-risk groups.

The Angelus Project Aware Officer, Kate Zaczek said: “This awareness raising strategy takes a town-wide approach to build community resilience against harmful substances that could impact young people and their families. We have worked in schools, with community groups and at the local university to challenge the normative belief – ‘legal means safe.’ We are extremely proud to work with Luton Borough Council who is the first to address the issue of NPS drug-taking in this way.”

Angelus has campaigned at local events organised by Live Well Luton – at the Carnival and on World Mental Health Awareness Day, in Luton Libraries and, at The University of Bedfordshire and Barnfield College. Over 1,000 people were informed of the new law which came into force in May that makes ‘legal highs’ illegal to manufacture, distribute, supply and import. Possession is still legal.

Angelus has worked with local schools to educate young people on the harms of NPS. Teaching drug awareness is central to ‘Project Aware’ as adequate knowledge will help young people to become risk-averse. The Chalk Hills Academy informed Angelus that they felt more comfortable learning drug safety from someone their own age, so we set up the Project Aware Youth Ambassador Programme to recruit young people.

Kate said: “I’m so excited to set up the Project Aware Youth Ambassador Programme that was purposefully designed to build confidence and independence. Team building will also help young people express their creativity over the six week programme. We are delighted to have Creative Films Workshops on board as they are a Luton- based organisation which is passionate about upskilling young people.”

National Lottery Funding will enable participants to become a script writer, director, producer, filmmaker and actor in their own NPS awareness film which will be promoted on social media and shown in schools. This six-week project is open to dedicated young people aged 13-21 who are passionate about making a difference to their community. Angelus is working with Creative Films Workshops who will teach young people technical creative filmmaking skills.

We welcome all young people in Luton to join this inspiring project by contacting Project Aware on: or 07498 921854.

Let’s become awareness together!

PDF leaflet Link: file:///C:/Users/emily/AppData/Local/Microsoft/Windows/INetCache/Content.Outlook/N0JDWYPJ/Advert.pdf


Creative Films Workshop Link:


Angelus to Merge with Mentor UK on 1 October

Leading Drug Education Charities, Angelus and Mentor to Merge

 Two of the UK’s leading drugs education charities have announced they are to merge. Angelus, is the only UK charity dedicated to raising awareness of the risks from new psychoactive substances (also known as ‘legal highs’). Mentor UK is the UK’s leading charity working to prevent the misuse of alcohol and drugs among children and young people. They will merge on 1 October 2016 and operate under the Mentor UK name.

Together, they have a shared ambition to see a considerably increased provision of preventative education delivered to young people so that every young person in the UK can assess the risks that drugs present. They have already worked together in lobbying the Government to help educate young people in the wake of the New Psychoactive Substances Act.

Angelus was founded by Maryon Stewart, whose daughter Hester died in 2009 after taking a legal high. Mentor UK was founded in 1998 and is part of the group of charities affiliated with the Mentor International Foundation. The organisations recognise that the range of pressures facing young people is continually growing. The numbers of substances available to young people has continued to add to the rapidly evolving situation. The merger is an opportunity to demonstrate their dual leadership in the sector, enhancing their capacity to support educational delivery and to involve Government in finding solutions.

Both organisations recognise close parallels in their work objectives to develop greater external profile and stronger influence so as to achieve common objectives of preventing harm to young people by building their resilience to the myriad of pressures on them.

Mentor’s Chief Executive, Michael O’ Toole said, “This merger is a great match of expertise – it is going to give fresh impetus to the prevention agenda. Mentor and Angelus working together will certainly enhance our capability to deliver on the full range of issues affecting young people. Angelus has shown it is the lead voice in educating young people and the public about the new phenomenon of new psychoactives. Together we will be a stronger force to ensure we build even more young people’s resilience to the wide range of pressures they face.”

Chief Executive of Angelus, Jan King said, “We are absolutely delighted to be announcing this merger today. We are determined to continue to work to protect young people from the harms of new psychoactives – it is clear to us that joining forces with Mentor UK is the best way of achieving that. There is no organisation in the sector which is more respected than Mentor and they have a very strong track record of delivering high quality prevention programmes. We look forward to reaching more young people and enabling them and their parents to be better equipped to cope with the risks that drugs present.”

‘Legal highs’ removed from more than 300 shops – BBC – 26 August

Legal high substances

More than 300 UK retailers are no longer selling so-called legal highs, three months after a ban was introduced, the Home Office has said.

A further 24 shops have been closed down altogether, while police have also arrested 186 alleged offenders.

The Home Office said it was “encouraged” that so many retailers had been “denied the chance to profit from this reckless trade”.

However, the charity DrugWise said the ban had driven the market underground.

Legal highs became popular on the drug scene around 2008. They contain substances which mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy and go by names such as Spice and Black Mamba.

Laws criminalising the production, distribution, sale and supply of the drugs – known as the Psychoactive Substances Act – came into effect at the end of May.

Commander Simon Bray, from the National Police Chiefs Council, said London’s Metropolitan Police had also seized nearly 14,000 nitrous oxide or laughing gas canisters since the change.

Mr Bray said although it was difficult to draw firm conclusions about the impact on use of the drugs, “intuitively I think it must have had an effect”.

“It will certainly make it less easy for the casual first-time user to get involved in this sort of stuff,” he said adding that he believed many people were “lulled into buying these things” thinking they were legal and therefore safe.

The Angelus Foundation, which educates people on the risks of legal highs, said it believed many online traders had also shut down.

Jeremy Sare, director of communications at the charity, told the BBC: “I think the ban has made a big difference and we are supportive of the legislation.

“What we are surprised about is the online supply hasn’t surged. Traders seem to have stopped selling. It is still early days and we may look back in 12 months and see more online trading but many look to have closed.

“Many were operating within the law but now the law has gone against them so they haven’t continued.”

He said the two biggest groups still using the drugs were homeless people and prisoners.

Full article here.


Manchester Police Call Legal Highs Amnesty – 18 July

Salfordonline report.


Greater Manchester Police (GMP) is appealing for people to ‘hand in their highs’ as part of a week-long amnesty.
Amnesty illegal highs
New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), previously known as ‘legal highs’, used to be readily available from retail outlets but the introduction of ‘The Psychoactive Substances Act’ in May has made it illegal to sell, supply or import these drugs.

‘Illegal highs’ are engineered to have a similar effect on users as drugs such as cocaine or cannabis. As there is no regulation with these drugs ingredients and strength can vary between batches.

As well as being highly addictive, some users have experienced seizures, mental health issues, brain damage and heart problems. NPS have also been linked to a number of deaths.

The amnesty, which takes place 18 – 24 July, allows retailers to get rid of any stock they may still have, without any questions asked.

For full article.

Are we giving children the right message about drugs? BBC Radio 4 You and Yours

Three 12-year-old girls were admitted to hospital this weekend after taking ecstasy tablets. They’re thought to be among theyoungest in the UK to have become ill after taking the drug. 

What is the best way to warn youngsters about the dangers of drugs? Is it enough to tell them to “just say no”, or are there more effective ways to protect our young people from the worst effects of drugs? What is the role of schools in teaching children about the risks?

What effect does social media and the internet have on young people’s attitudes? What should parents do or say, to protect their children?

Have your children taken drugs? What did you do to warn them about the risks? Did it work?

Click here for link to programme.

Global Drug Survey Results – 16 June

Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) Trends in the UK – most people buy NPS online

  • UK has highest rate of last year NPS purchase of any GDS country (11.6% of UK sample)
  • GDS2016 reports increase in UK last year purchase of NPS after falling rates over last 4 years
  • Decline in high street NPS purchases from 46.3% in GDS2014 to 34.6% in GDS2016.
  • 58% of those reporting buying NPS last year did so on-line.
  • 3 times more likely end up seeking emergency medical treatment with NPS than traditional drugs

Synthetic Cannabinoids (SCs) and A&E

  • Synthetic cannabinoids more likely to lead to emergency medical treatment than any other drug
  • 1 in 8 of those using weekly or more often reported seeking emergency medical treatment (3.5% of all users)
  • Overall risk of seeking emergency medical treatment when using SCs is 30 times greater than skunk
  • Over half of those using more than 50 times in last year who tried to stop reported withdrawal symptoms

Click here for Key Findings.

Legal Change Offers An Opportunity To Change How We Talk About Drugs – Vice News – 8 June

The author Rick Bradley is Operations Manager at Young Addaction but is writing here in a personal capacity. Tweets @RickBrad1ey

After much speculation and debate, the Psychoactive Substances Act is now in place and the first prosecutions are being enacted.

We can expect the majority of head shops to disappear from our high streets, and there is little doubt in my mind that certain products will become far more difficult to access. Yet few regard the Act as a genuine solution to the undoubted risks posed by certain new psychoactive substances (NPS). Indeed, many of those in favour of its enforcement would openly acknowledge that further work is essential if we are to better address the potential risks of NPS.

Please click here for full article.