What are Legal highs or research chemicals?

Legal highs or research chemicals are umbrella terms used to describe a wide range of substances that are created to get around existing drugs laws. Most of the legal highs are designed to act in a similar way to current illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, or cannabis

The fact that these drugs may be legal does not mean that they are safe. Indeed, some are as harmful as any of the illegal drugs available, some may be less harmful. The truth is that you don’t know what you are taking unless it has been analysed.

Many of the sites selling research chemicals will talk about their product being pure or that they only supply direct from the manufacturers. The reality is that when tested, around 20% of the products being sold contained other substances including illegal drugs, or were mostly made up of caffeine.

The below drugs wheel at the bottom of this page demonstrates the chemical families that different research chemicals or legal highs fall into.


Most are powders or pellets. However, some of the synthetic substances are made to resemble cannabis to make them look natural / herbal.

The dangers:

The biggest danger is that you do not know what you are buying. Most people have a vague idea of what they are consuming If you want to know more about the different drugs that are sold as legal highs or research chemicals, visit: Drugsmeter, Angelus Foundation or Erowid.


Many drugs that were previously sold as legal highs are now controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, including mephedrone (meow meow), naphyrone, BZP, GBL and synthetic cannabinoids (such as Spice)

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