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What is a psychoactive substance?

The term ‘psychoactive substance’ is defined in section 9 of the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013. Broadly speaking, a psychoactive substance is anything:

  • that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect in an individual who uses the substance (ie, affects the mind of the user in any way) AND
  • whose primary purpose is to induce a psychoactive effect in an individual who uses the substance or product AND
  • that is not a medicine, controlled drug, precursor substance, herbal remedy, food, dietary supplement, tobacco product or alcohol.

A medicine is defined in section 3 of the Medicines Act 1981 and are regulated under that Act. A list of ingredients scheduled as medicines can be found in Schedule 1 of the Medicines Regulations 1984.

Controlled drugs and precursor substances are listed in schedules 1 to 4 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and are regulated under that Act.

Herbal remedies are defined in section 2 of the Medicines Act and are regulated under that Act.

Foods are defined in section 9 of the Food Act and are regulated under that Act.

Dietary supplements are defined in section 2A of the Dietary Supplements Regulations 1985 and are regulated under those Regulations.

An alcohol or tobacco product that contains an additional substance that otherwise meets the definition of a psychoactive substance would be regulated as a psychoactive substance and not an alcohol or tobacco product. Tobacco products are defined under section 2 of the Smoke Free Environments Act 1985 and regulated under that Act. Alcohol is defined in section 5 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 and regulated under that Act.