New psychoactive substances

What are new psychoactive substances?

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New psychoactive substances are chemicals that have been developed to have similar effects to illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine and methamphetamine. A wide variety of these drugs have appeared in Australia in the past few years. New psychoactive substances are generally sold online and through adult stores and tobacconists.

They are marketed with confusing or misleading descriptions such as ‘legal highs’, ‘herbal highs’, ‘bath salts’ or ‘plant food’. Products may be labelled ‘not for human consumption’ or ‘for novelty purposes’ despite the fact that they are intended for use as drugs. While they are sometimes referred to as ‘research chemicals’, these substances do not have a legitimate pharmaceutical or therapeutic use.

What do new psychoactive substances look like?

Up until now, products have mostly been sold in small packages and labelled with various brand names. The substances themselves can come in many forms including powders, tablets and liquids, and can be mixed with dried plant matter or other material. More recently we have seen the emergence of substances that are sold as and/or mimic the effects of LSD. These products can be in powder form or on blotting paper and generally have a logo on them.

Are these drugs legal?

Because of the potential risk of harm from using them, NSW has now introduced a range of laws that prohibit the sale, supply, manufacture and advertisement of all new psychoactive substances, as well as the possession of many such substances. The range of offences and penalties vary according to the substance.

Find out more about the current legal status of these drugs.
Report illegal activity in relation to these drugs.

Are they safe to use?

Very little is known about how these drugs affect people. In Australia and internationally, new psychoactive substances have been linked to hospitalisations and deaths.

Find out more information about the health effects of new psychoactive substances.