'Legal highs' are legal no more

So-called "legal highs", or synthetic drugs which mimic the effects of controlled drugs like cocaine and heroin, will become as illegal and attract the same penalties from May 1.

Bath salts, herbal highs and legal highs.

These innocent-sounding terms are actually synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of illegal narcotics like ecstasy, cocaine and methamphetamine, which is better known by its street name, Ice.

These drugs are known collectively as new psychoactive substances (NPS) and yesterday, the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) took a major step forward in its fight against such drugs by classifying them as controlled substances.

Eleven types of compounds, with over a hundred specific examples listed, will become controlled drugs from today.

Anyone convicted of abusing any NPS can be jailed for up to 10 years, fined up to $20,000 or both.

Those found guilty of trafficking such substances will face a minimum of five years' jail and five strokes of the cane.


The United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) had reported that NPS are an alarming drug trend.

Drug syndicates typically use NPS to adjust the chemical structure of commonly controlled drugs so they can circumvent the law.

Some examples include synthetic cannabinoids, which imitate marijuana; and phenethylamines, which act like traditional amphetamines such as ecstasy.

The use of NPS have often led to paranoia, seizures and hallucinations.

Since the enactment of the Fifth Schedule of the Misuse of Drugs Act last May up to the end of February, CNB had seized NPS on at least 30 occasions.

Thus far, synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones are the two more commonly detected NPS, said a CNB spokesman. 

This article was published on May 1 in The New Paper.Get The New Paper for more stories.