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Mapping out the next 12 months of legal highs

Whether for good or bad, the grey market is here to stay. We trace the tricky landscape of where your next high might come from

Dodgy online reviews, pseudoscience and desperate thrill seeking fuel the murky world of legal highs. It’s an incredibly risky business; defunct medicines and modified tranquilisers are top candidates for exploration. So, as more and more drugs are outlawed, even sketchier ones are invented to replace them. The law is not discriminating between safe and unsafe drugs – it’s only discriminating between the old and the new ones.

It’s an embarrassing situation for the government, but their response is even more humiliating. Portugal has seen considerable health improvements since decriminalising drugs 13 years ago, and even the UK government’s own research shows that tough drug laws don’t work. Despite this, the authorities continue their crack down on legal highs. An ever-changing climate, but perhaps, most interestingly, the market finds itself characterised by an uncertain set of drug laws that are constantly undermined by the drug-cookers’ drive to invent new ones. As soon as one narcotic is outlawed, the search for a new euphoric formula begins. Read on to discover the next set of drugs they could be reckoning with.


Out now: Ketamine saved lives in the Vietnam War, but it is now vilified as the fuel of raving teenagers. Keen on dissociative dream-seeking, the legal drug trade is franticly searching for ketamine’s legal cousins.

Coming up: 2-MDP for all-day raving and 8A-PHQ, Angel Dust’s close relative. 

For a while, designer drug MXE was the surrogate for ketamine, but Theresa May eventually cottoned on and banned that. Now, even dodgier replacements such as methoxydine, and (take a deep breath) 3-methoxyphencyclindine are debated on drug forum message-boards. Normally used as research chemicals, they promise that lab-rat high humanity is yearning for. Future alternatives include 2-MDP, a kind of ketamine/amphetamine fusion that could last for over 24 hours; a prospect which is pretty daunting, or thrilling, depending on how you look at it. Another risky proposition is 8A-PDHQ, a potent dissociative related to Angel Dust. Prepare for the ‘PDHQ’-hole.


Out now: Salvia, the Mexican herb hallucinogen.

Coming up: Tifluadom and enadoline; medicines-turned-hallucinogens

Benzodiazepines can be used to get drunk, relieve insomnia or calm anxieties, but they’re not supposed to conjure hallucinations. So, scientists were pulling their hair out in the ’80s when they discovered a benzodiazepine derivative called tifluadom that was as hallucinogenic as Mexican psychoactive salvia. Similarly, medics were scrapped enadoline when they found it was 25 times more potent than morphine, and gave their unsuspecting patient salvia-like visions.

Although both were consigned to the medicinal history-books, they may be the big hits with legal-high addicts. Salvia became instantly #everywhere when Miley Cyrus celebrated her 18th with a bong-load of it, so why not try a hellish weeklong trip on enadoline instead?


Out now: psychedelic painkillers 

Coming up: cyclazocine, for the coma-seeking party people

This family of drugs has had several run-ins with the law. In the 1970s, it became some imaginative junkies decided to start crushing up the painkiller pentazocine with an antihistamine to get high. Officials were presumably surprised anyone came up with that combo, and they had to modify the pills to kill their euphoric effect. A related painkiller, phenazocine, is classified as a class A drug because it is four times as potent as morphine. It went out of production in 2001, but drug-law enforcers shouldn’t get too comfortable.

Could there still be a legal high-life for similar sedatives? One has slipped the regulatory net – cyclazocine. You won’t find this one in a pharmacy, though. It was so psychedelic that scientists couldn’t face developing it. Imprisoned heroin addicts treated with it also became tired, drunk and drowsy. So, it won’t make you the life and soul of the party. More likely, you’ll be slumped in the corner next to a pile of coats all night, with your mind in the other corner, shouting at yourself.