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Research chemicals is one term used to describe new psychoactive substances or ‘legal highs’. It usually refers to both research powders and research pills that are new or rediscovered chemicals, which mimic the effects of some illegal drugs such as cocaine and MDMA.
Research chemicals fall into the same drug categories as the illegal drugs they are designed to copy. The most common research chemicals categories are stimulants (uppers), psychedelics (trips) and empathogens.
Unlike a lot of illegal drugs that have been around a long time, it is difficult to know the long term effects of research chemicals as there is not enough evidence on their risks. Usually the user experiments on themself to carry out the research and the dose will differ between each chemical and batch.
The appearance will vary depending on the drug but most research chemicals are produced in a lab and will come as a white to yellow powder or as a powder-filled capsule.
What you Need to Know
If you choose to use research chemicals:
- Users are advised to dose carefully, start low go slow!
- Control doses by measuring amounts. Use accurate scales; don’t judge by eye!
- Try a test dose (a small dab with your pinky) and wait at least 2 hours before re-dosing to ensure there are no bad effects
- Avoid mixing with other drugs as this can increase your chances of having negative effects as well as putting strain on your heart and increasing your chances of having an overdose
- Snorting of these products can cause damage to the nasal passage due to their crystalline appearance – if you are determined to snort, make sure you grind the substance before use and alternate nostrils.
- Injecting is the most risky way to use this substance and increases the risk of overdose as well as getting HIV or Hep C. If you choose to inject, use your own needles and do not share equipment.
- Find out as much as you can about the drug you are planning to take
Some research chemicals are controlled by The Misuse of Drugs Act. Other research chemicals are covered by The Psychoactive Substances Act. It was introduced in the UK on the 26th May 2016 and it makes it an offence to manufacture, export/import (i.e. buying from a non-UK website), supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance, if likely to be used for its psychoactive effects. Despite being psychoactive, alcohol, nicotine, tobacco and caffeine are exempt from the act.
Under the new regulations, possession with intent to supply is an offence. Possession is not an offence, except in a ‘custodial institution’ (e.g. prison, young offenders centre).
Penalties range from civil sanctions to a 7 year prison sentence but some offences will be considered to be aggravated, including selling to under 18s or around schools and children’s homes etc.
The Human Medicines Regulations (2012) and the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) including Temporary Class Drug Orders (TCDOs) will remain unchanged.
The police have increased powers to stop and search individuals and premises, and NPS may be treated like a controlled drug until proven otherwise.
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