Are research chemicals legal to order online

Drugs: Rapid EU-wide ban on new, dangerous substances

According to the new rules passed by Parliament on Tuesday, the process for determining the possible effects of new psychoactive substances (NPS) and, if necessary, for taking control measures in the EU will be significantly shorter in order to be able to keep up with the rapid developments in the market.

The national authorities have six months instead of twelve to implement an EU decision. The exchange of information through the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is to be improved.

NPS are freely traded chemicals that have effects similar to some other illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, cannabis, and ecstasy. Once taken off the market, the production, distribution and sale of the most dangerous new substances can face maximum sentences of between five and ten years in prison, as is the case with other illegal drugs.

Europol will play a more important role in the early warning system and risk assessment process to encourage the cross-border involvement of criminal organizations.

Parliament passed the amendments to the regulation establishing the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) by 609 votes in favor, 19 against and 29 abstentions, while the amended directive was adopted without a vote at second reading.


The rapporteur for the directive, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril (EPP, ES) said: “New psychoactive substances, largely manufactured in China and India, are becoming increasingly popular. They are available online and in stores, and authorities are struggling to control the spread. Our goal is to reduce their availability on the market and to ensure that manufacturers and dealers can be prosecuted. "

Michal Boni (EPP, PL), rapporteur for the EMCDDA regulation, emphasized: “In 2016 and 2017, 254 people died in the EU after using new psychoactive substances. It is our political and moral obligation to protect the health of our citizens, especially the younger generation, by ensuring a swift response against the NPS and better coordination of national action. "

the next steps

The EU member states have twelve months to transpose the changes to the directive into national law. The updated regulation will apply from the end of this implementation period.


The term encompasses a wide range of synthetic and plant-derived substances and products. They include "research chemicals", "party pills", "herbal highs" etc. They are usually sold over the internet or in smart or head shops. They are advertised with aggressive and elaborate marketing strategies.

New psychoactive substances (NPS) are known as "legal drugs" ("legal highs"), "herbal highs", "bath salts" or "research chemicals". These are identified by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as "substances of abuse, either in pure form or as a preparation, which are not controlled by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 or the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, but which are may pose a threat to public health ".

The term “new” does not necessarily refer to new inventions (several NPS were created 40 years ago) but to substances that have only recently entered the market. They have increased rapidly in the last ten years and are benefiting from globalization and the new communication technologies and are often sold in specialist shops and on the Internet. Well-known examples of such substances are methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and "Spice".

Leaflet on the procedural steps (amendments to the EMCDDA regulation)
Leaflet on the procedural steps (2013/0304 (COD))
New Psychoactive Substances in Europe: Legislation and Law Enforcement - Current Challenges and Solutions (Joint publication by EMCDDA and Eurojust, November 2016)
Study: Review and Evaluation of EU Drugs Policy (November 2016, EN)