When the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 comes into force on 6 April 2016 it will become an offence to produce or supply any psychoactive substance (excluding nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, medicines and controlled drugs). The main aim of the act is to prohibit and disrupt the production and supply of novel psychoactive substances (NPS, known as ‘legal highs’); primarily by shutting down high street vendors that currently trade in them. It is hoped that this will help to protect people from the risks posed by these untested, unknown and potential harmful substances, which may cause a variety of physical and mental health problems.
Although police forces are offering the opportunity to surrender stocks before this bill becomes law, there remain concerns that NPS may be sold cheaply as outlets try to shift their stock before they become illegal. Hopefully this will not be the case and we won’t see a flood of NPS on to the streets.
However, the pharmacy profession has an invaluable role to play in helping to raise awareness. In particular, community pharmacy teams (especially those offering needle exchange) should take the opportunity to offer harm reduction advice and signpost to specialist services to help make sure people know where they can get support with their substance misuse.
Lead clinical pharmacist (south west and mental health)