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How the Psychoactive Substances Act Has Affected the UK's Drug Landscape

The stats are in about what the bill has achieved.

(Screen shot via 'Spice Boys')

Shitty drugs news now, and the latest stats are in about what's been going on with "legal highs" since the Psychoactive Substances Act made them all illegal this past May.

Three months after the ban came into effect, more than 300 retailers – including head shops, garages and tattoo parlours – have taken "new psychoactive substances" off their shelves, while 24 shops that sold them have closed down and 186 alleged legal high offenders have been arrested.


This, says the Home Office, is a Very Good Thing. A victory, because those shops have been "denied the chance to profit from this reckless trade". But you know who's now profiting instead? According to drugs charity DrugWise: street dealers.

A VICE investigation in January predicted this outcome, pointing out that while the government's attempt to restrict access to these substances was no bad thing, banning them outright and hoping they would all just go away was a very short-sighted move, as it effectively hands control to street dealers – who aren't subject to any of the scrutiny head shops are – and allows them to prey on some of society's most vulnerable.

This is exactly what's happened. Jeremy Sare, head of the Angelus Foundation, which educates people about the risks of legal highs, explained to the BBC that the two biggest groups still using these substances are homeless people and prisoners.

However, added Sare, many online retailers seem to have ceased trading, which is a plus. Commander Simon Bray, from the National Police Chiefs Council, said this and the lack of availability in brick-and-mortar stores makes it a lot more difficult for "the casual first-time user to get involved in this sort of stuff". And when you see the effects synthetic cannabis – one of the banned substances – has had on some people's lives, there's no denying that's a wholly positive thing.

More on VICE:

Britain's Synthetic Weed Problem Is Only Getting Worse

How the Government's Legal High Ban Will Directly Harm Users and Help Dealers

How Legal Highs Changed During My 25 Years of Selling Them