skip to the main content area of this page

Legal Responses

Many Member States and the international community, in an effort to protect public health, have explored a wide range of legislative responses to address the dynamics of the NPS market, particularly the rapid emergence and attempts by manufacturers to circumvent legislation; the diversity of the problem; and scarcity of data to enable a full evaluation of harm. This Legal section of the UNODC Early Warning Advisory (EWA) provides an overview of the legal situation of NPS at the international level as well as of a wide range of legislative measures and/or regulations that have been adopted so far at the regional and national level to respond to this challenge.

Database of national legal responses to control NPS

The searchable database lists and describes national legislative approaches to NPS, by country /territory and type of approach. Where available, web links lead to the respective national legislation.

The UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs 

The legal module of the UN Tool Kit provides an in-depth insight covering different legislative approaches to synthetic drugs controls, which aids in the understanding of key considerations of the approaches and how they may apply in various national contexts.

mephedrone, 5-IT, 25I-NBOMe, AH-7921, MDPV, methoxetamine, 4,4'-DMAR and MT-45.
importation, manufacture, sale, supply, or possession of a psychoactive substance or approved product
for the primary purpose of inducing a psychoactive effect in an individual who uses the substance or product.

age restrictions and place-of-sale restrictions on the sale of approved products:


advertising, labelling, and packaging restrictions and requirements for approved products:


health-warning requirements for approved products:


signage, storage, and display restrictions and requirements for approved products:


creating offences relating to the sale of approved products by or to persons under the age of 18 years and the possession of psychoactive substances without a licence:


the relationship between this Act and other enactments:


authorising the Authority to recall approved products in certain circumstances:

The act applies across the UK and it:
  • makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment

  • excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

  • exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research from the offences under the act on the basis that persons engaged in such activities have a legitimate need to use psychoactive substances in their work

  • includes provision for civil sanctions – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders (breach of the two orders will be a criminal offence) – to enable the police and local authorities to adopt a graded response to the supply of psychoactive substances in appropriate cases

  • provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances