Number of legal highs has rocketed, warns UN

The number of legal highs has rocketed over the last year, a United Nations body has warned.

The UN’s International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said the drugs, known as new psychoactive substances, represent a “growing threat”.

Next month a blanket ban on all legal highs will come into force in the UK.


According to the INCB, by October last year UN member states had reported 602 new legal highs in 2015 – a 55 per cent increase on the previous year.

The body added that keeping pace with the creation of new substances is a “key challenge” and described them as a “growing threat”.

The battle against legal highs was bolstered earlier this month with the development of a new test at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Saving lives

The new technology will help statutory bodies identify what chemicals are contained within legal highs so that public health warnings can be issued more quickly.

Spokesman for the university Professor Steven Bell said: “As a result of the new approach devised at Queen’s, we predict that we will be able to identify many more substances and at a much more rapid pace as our work in this area progresses.

“This will not only aid in the creation of new legislation but will also enable more meaningful information to be available to the community, police and public health agencies, with the aim of saving lives and preventing serious injury.”

Blanket ban

Last year the Government launched a Bill to crack down on legal highs by introducing a blanket ban.

The Psychoactive Substances Act will outlaw “any substance which is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in a person who consumes it”, with the exception of things like alcohol and caffeine.

Until now legal highs have been banned on a case-by-case basis. However, manufacturers are often able to get around the law by tweaking the chemical composition of the drugs.