‘Legal Highs’ are substances made from assorted herbs, herbal extracts and ‘research chemicals’. They produce the same, or similar effects, to drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. They are however, considered illegal under current medicines legislation to sell, supply or advertise for “human consumption”. To get round this sellers refer to them as research chemicals, plant food, bath crystals or pond cleaner.

Because legal highs include lots of different substances and what’s in them can change, often the immediate effects can vary. There is the possibility of accidental overdosing as the strength of some substances is unknown.

It is also likely that drugs sold as a ‘legal high’ may actually contain one or more substances that are actually illegal to posses. What you may think is a legal high that you can’t get in trouble for having, could be something completely different, and in fact a class B drug.


The substance was created in a lab to mimic the effects of cocaine or ecstasy, but it had a slightly different chemical structure to both of these drugs so that it would not fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Subsequently the government passed legislation so that mephedrone became a controlled substance meaning it’s now a class B drug, which means possession could get you up to 5 years in jail and a fine! Supplying (even giving it away) gets up to 15 years!

Mephedrone produces euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and feelings of empathy. It can also cause anxiety and paranoid states and risks overstimulating the heart and circulation, and it risks overstimulating the nervous system to cause fits. There is developing evidence on the risk of death from using mephedrone. It comes as a fine white, off-white or yellowish powder – usually snorted like cocaine or swallowed ‘bombed’ in wraps of paper. It can be smoked and in rare cases is injected and also comes in capsules and pills.


Naphyrone is a stimulant drug closely related to ‘cathinone derivatives’ including mephedrone. Naphyrone does not have a long history of use, so there is little evidence of its long term effects or on the risks from using it. However, due to its similarity to other ‘cathinone derivatives’, naphyrone is likely to share the same risks such as anxiety, paranoia, overstimulation of the heart and circulatory system and overexcitation of the nervous system (with the risk of fits). The effects could include feelings of euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and empathy. When sold over the internet, it was often described as a plant food, research chemicals or bath salts, and not for human consumption.


MDPV stands for Methylenedioxypyrovalerone and is also known as MDPK. It is also known as MDPK, MTV, Magic, Maddie, Super Coke and PV.The substance appears as a pure white to light-brown or light grey crumbly powder with a slight odor. It appears to darken slightly in color and take on a potato-tuber-like odor if exposed to air for any significant length of time.