The government will make it illegal to sell any psychoactive substance in a bid to crack down on designer drugs

New laws banning the sale and distribution of all legal highs – or new psychoactive substances (NPS) – have been drafted by the UK government.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill aims to ‘protect young people’ from the dangers of taking NPSs, the government said, by making it easier to target those who manufacture them. The existing practice of banning legal highs one by one has failed to tackle the problem, it says, as new NSPs can be quickly created to take the place of those that have been banned. Under the new rules, those found to be supplying psychoactive substances such as party drugs and laughing gas (nitrous oxide) could face up to seven years in prison.

While the legislation is a ‘blanket ban’ that applies to ‘any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect’, there will be a long list of exemptions – caffeine, alcohol and tobacco will all be unaffected, along with various foods and approved drugs that are used in a medical context, such as antidepressants.