While novelty and legality initially boosted British interest in NPS, their illegality has dampened demand, says Fiona Measham, a criminologist at Durham University in the UK. However, the power of SCs means that users have to take very little to get high, and can therefore do so very cheaply. This makes SCs the most obvious vestige to challenge the ban in the UK. “They attract people with low disposable incomes, people coming out of prison, living in dormitories, the homeless, the unemployed and young people,” she says. When you watch the documentary, you wonder if Zee – who “has never met someone who is addicted to my drugs. I`ve never been face to face with it” – is too far away from its consumers. Whether it`s the herb substitute Spice or the cocaine-mimicking Rush, users continue to point out that the heights are much greater than they are supposed to mimic. The long-term effects can be just as bleak – we see Glen, 31, whose life has revolved around Spice since he stepped away from weed, or Phil, a homeless addict since his youth, who gave up illegal drugs to shoot £40 worth of magic crystals every day at a nearby church. These people are clearly trapped in a cycle of addiction – although it can easily be argued that they would be independent of the easy availability of the substance they have chosen.

Legal highs were sold under names such as Devils Dandruff Derailed, Psycho Strawberry, Train Wreck, Kronic, Low Rider, Green Candy, Widow, Head Trip and Blueberry Cush. With the temporary closure of his store, Butcher also wanted to send a clear signal to regular customers who kept coming back to ask for legal highs. While he claims powders and pills should have been regulated, not banned, the condition of some of these customers in their post-ban withdrawal made him think differently about his former best-selling drug, synthetic cannabis, aka Spice. “I now know how bad some of those things were. It touched a lot of people. How my clients felt afterwards and what happened to them… Butcher`s voice fades. “Unscrupulous suppliers put things in the smoking mix that gave them a slight high, but it also made them have more and it ruined their brains. It`s a shame it took me so long to figure it out. According to Simon Bray, head of the UK National Police Chief Officers` Council for the NPS, the PSA complements the tools his colleagues had already used to “enforce psychoactive substances”. In one operation, Britain`s North West Regional Crime Unit shut down a website called “Wide Mouth Frogs” that had grossed around £3.8 million.

When officials purchased their products in 2013, 77 percent of the items contained substances deemed illegal under the Misuse of Substances Act, including mephedrone. In the UK, the production and supply of legal highs was banned on 26 May 2016. The 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act (PSA) introduced a blanket ban punishable by up to seven years in prison, with exemptions for medicines, food and drink, as well as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. A major concern of PPE is its wide range of applications. “A psychoactive effect is something that affects a person`s mental function or emotional state by stimulating or suppressing their nervous system,” the board explains. “Legal highs are essentially a bad category. Before, all drugs were like that,” says Johann Hari. “The story of what happened to heroin and cocaine in the early 20th century is a story of legal highs.” Hari is the author of Chasing the Scream, a book in which he explores the 100-year-old war on drugs. His conclusion is damning, and Hari believes that, as with other drugs, the “illegal” label on NPS will not have the desired effect.

Enforcing drug prohibition is nothing more than a “grotesque waste of money,” Hari says. “All the police officers I asked, `Do you think there were fewer drugs after all these efforts?` – none of them said yes. We can`t keep drugs out of prisons and we pay someone to walk around the walled perimeter. Good luck keeping them out of the country. The scientist is an Amsterdam-based Israeli chemist who believes people who want to “get high” should have alternatives to illegal drugs or alcohol.