Criminal gangs in China are supplying illegal psychoactive substances to the black market in Scotland, an investigation has found.
An undercover BBC Scotland team made contact with a chemical company in China and asked to buy Ethylphenidate, once categorised as a so-called legal high but now subject to a banning order as it is considered dangerous.
The team were then put in touch with the manufacturers’ business partner in Scotland, known only as Craig, who said US$15,000 (£9,882) of the chemical can be bought at a time.
The substances were delivered packaged and labelled as a printer ink cartridge and were later verified by a drug testing company.
Figures show that Scottish ambulance crews are dealing with six emergency call-outs every day on average as a result of legal highs, with 2,229 incidents involving new psychoactive substances (NPS) recorded last year.
There were 114 deaths in Scotland in 2014 where NPS had been taken – up from just four in 2009.
Many legal highs can still be purchased in high street stores but a blanket ban is to be introduced to outlaw the production, sale and supply of NPS from next year.
Detective inspector Michael Miller, Police Scotland’s national drug co-ordinator, told the programme that organised crime is now involved in the NPS trade.
He said: “You would have your organised criminal gangs, dealing with heroin, cocaine and Ecstasy, and then you have this separate entity who were dealing purely in NPS.
“But these two bubbles are now pushing together and very much overlapping. It’s attractive to organised criminal gangs, there’s more money to be made, they perceive less risk, so criminal networks will get involved in this,” he said.