Legal Party Pills

Enforcement | 15/02/2019

"Legal Party Pills" - harmless and legal fun?

Special occasions should be celebrated appropriately: For some this means letting themselves go for a change, if necessary by taking various substances. However, not everyone wants to break the law and so you may come across products that are offered as a legal alternatives to other party drugs. At the same time, it is suggested by the suppliers that such products are completely harmless. Does "not prohibited" mean the same as "legal" and is this synonymous with "risk-free"?

A Successful Evening

Your party is going well, everyone is talking, the atmosphere is exuberant. To make your party extra special, you ordered something on the Internet: the product was advertised with "Are you looking for the ultimate experience without paying an extreme price?" - it is supposed to be a consciousness-expanding, purely vegetable and therefore harmless preparation according to the advertisement on the homepage. Everybody's curious, a bottle of pills is passed from one to another. The mood rises, a friend of yours claims to see colours and shapes - everyone laughs. Only your girlfriend has glassy eyes, she can hardly breathe. She's not well. Maybe she drank too much. But when she stops responding after a few minutes, you call the ambulance. The paramedics want to know what she took. You give them the vial with the remaining pills, but there's not much information got from it. Your girlfriend has to go to hospital, no one can tell at the time whether her complaints have anything to do with the party pills or not since no one knows exactly what they contain. The next day you are contacted by the police. The tablets from your party are suspected of containing one or more psychoactive substances. You are asked to provide detailed information on the online purchase. Depending on the type of product, you may face criminal or administrative consequences. Furthermore, you may be confronted with claims for (health) damages.

The scenario described at the beginning may be fictitious, but still plausible. Many search the Internet for the "special kick" and rely on the information found on the respective sales platforms. Only few know the corresponding laws and regulations.

Legal Situation

Since 2011, the New Psychoactive Substances Act (NPSG) has regulated the prohibition of many psychoactive substances by naming the basic chemical structure and not by listing the individual derivatives. As a result of ongoing amendments, all known psychoactive substances are covered by this sales ban in Austria. Therefore, sales and shipping are illegal, especially across national borders.

Even if the products concerned are not medicinal products within the meaning of the Medicines Act, they are still subsumed under the collective term "medicinal products" with respect to customs law. If pharmaceutical products are offered on the Internet via other sources than a registered distance selling or mail-order pharmacy, it goes hand in hand with an increased risk potential: Customers can no longer assume that the products purchased (pills, tablets, powders or solutions) meet the same quality standards as pharmacy products. It is possible that the preparations in question come from "dubious" sources. Product manufacturers may not hold a manufacturing authorisation, which may result in poor manufacturing quality. Consequently, the consumer cannot be sure that the product in question contains only what is stated in the content summary. This is particularly risky when unknown substances with psychotropic, metabolic or addictive effects are contained. There is a risk that the ingestion of a product with unknown composition causes an undesirable, possibly life-threatening or permanently damaging effect which cannot be adequately treated.

Products from the Internet

Generally speaking, the greatest care should be taken when purchasing products or medicines from the Internet from sources that are not secure. In one's own interest, medicines should generally be obtained only from registered distance selling pharmacies. In Austria, distance selling is only permitted for non-prescription medicines; prescription medicines must be obtained from established pharmacies or from general practitioners with a pharmacy.