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An Insight Into Who Is Really Buying Legal Highs Online

Guest Post – The spotlight looming over legal highs doesn’t seem to be going away. The world has become obsessed with the latest in the legal highs world and the on-going battle to get these substances banned.

If you don’t already know, confiscated drugs are tested by government experts and if they are believed to be dangerous, the substances are banned individually. Some manufacturers tweak ingredients to make a new drug with similar effects, but isn’t illegal. On Friday April 10th the government announced a temporary banning order on ethylphenidate and related products.

The temporary Class Drug Order (TCDO) makes the following compounds illegal to supply, import or export:

  • 3,4-Dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP)
  • Ethylphenidate
  • Isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD)
  • Methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28)
  • Propylphenidate 

We’ve all seen the headlines:

“MPs Putting Lives at Risk over Legal Highs”

“Expert warns: ‘Legal highs’ are more dangerous than illegal drugs”

There’s a large market out there for people seeking legal highs and as a result, online headshops are making strong profits selling these substances. They can vouch that customer numbers are definitely not going down; in fact they appear to be on the up.

With all this negative press and health warnings, the question people may be asking is who is still buying this stuff and where from?

ICE Headshop is one of the largest online headshops in the UK, selling a wide range of products to thousands of customers every single month. They were kind enough to share their sales data so we can get a deeper insight into their customer base.

1(Data from October 2014 – April 2015)

Many assume it’s the naive and rebellious teenagers that are buying legal highs online. However, it would seem this is not necessarily the case. In fact the 25-34 year old age bracket seems to enjoy getting high that bit more. This will probably come as a surprise to many, but users aged 45+ make up over 20% of total website traffic.


As you can see, this is a male dominated market. Other data also shows that up to 10% of customers are avid lovers of movies, TV and technology, which is unsurprising with the nature of some of the products.


This heat map shows that London and the rest of the South bought the highest amount of drugs.

Top 15 Cities:

  • London
  • Edinburgh
  • Belfast
  • Dublin
  • Manchester
  • Glasgow
  • Aberdeen
  • Birmingham
  • Leeds
  • Liverpool
  • Sheffield
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Norwich
  • Bristol
  • Brighton

Top 5 bestselling products:

China White 1g

Bought most in London and Belfast


Exodus Damnation 3g

Bought most in London and Conwy


Pink Panthers

Bought most in London and Barrow-in-Furness


Gogaine **now banned under TCDO**

Bought most in London and Belfast



Bought most in London and Glasgow


Data from Ice Headshop’s Google Analytics account from October 2014 – April 2015.

*Please note ICE Headshop does not condone human consumption of any of their products as they are not FDA approved.


  1. Some RCs are very dangerous and due to the lack of studies the effects of many are unknown. If goverments would mature and respect personal freedom by decriminalizing drugs then there would be no market for potentially dangerous analogues. A fraction of 1 percent of all the funds attribiuted to prohibition could be used for rehab, harm reduction, education, prison diversion, job creation, etc, etc, etc. Violent cartels and gangs would diminish.

  2. About 95% of RC’s are actually pharmaceutical analogs that are already in the literature. Things like a-PVP and AMT were pharmaceutical products that ended up hidden in the shadows after being pulled as a sales product. The real danger is ignorant individuals packaging these chemicals into the type of packaging pictured in the article and selling them as alternatives to illegal drugs. This leads to mass misinformation and improper dosing of highly potent materials.

    The right way to sell new drugs, and there will always be new drugs, is to be forthright about the compounds identity and don’t sell it as an alternative to anything.

  3. look for a realiable research chemicals supplier

  4. Heh yeah, in terms of “Legal Highs”, basically every packet in the industry is different. So you might buy 5 packets of the same drug, but one might be far worse than another.. That’s one of the dangers too. :/ It’s cause they’re just “chemical research” as far as anyone is told when they’re smuggled into different countries.. They’re adding and subtracting as little as an atom of some element to every “test”, and even an atom can make all the difference :/

    • Mr. Bear

      As opposed to the pharmaceutical grade drugs bought from Tyrone on the street?

      • b. fuggins

        Durgs bought on the street are traditionally the drug + non active adulterants and cutting agents. Not other drugs. You buy heroin, you get a mixture of heroin and lactose, not manitol and (butyl-)fentanyl. If you buy cocaine, you get cocaine, baking soda, and lidocaine, not a mixture consisting of one or more of the 100+ research stimulants. You buy “synthacaine” you have no clue what the hell it is.

        And your comment is needlessly racist. I know plenty of white people who sell drugs.

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