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Risk Update: Psychoactive Substances

Post Categories: Blog

An overview of illegal and high-risk goods 

At a global level, there has been an increase in the production as well as the misuse of new psychoactive substances. From 2009 to mid-2012, the number of these substances reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, escalated from 166 to 251 – an increase of more than 50%!


Reported psychoactive substances

With the evolving nature of new psychoactive substances, it is important to stay informed of the risks they bring. Here are a few that the card networks have been keeping a close eye on.



Amyl nitrite inhalants (also known as “poppers”) are sold legally with a prescription; however, the sale of poppers for recreational use is illegal. In some places like the U.S., there has also been a ban on the sale of substances that can be used to produce poppers – materials like butyl nitrites and alkyl nitrites. Many times, poppers are labeled as room odorizes or video head cleaners in an attempt to avoid detection.



Produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms, psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic compound. Under the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances, psilocybin and psilocin mushrooms are listed as Schedule I drug – meaning that the drug is not currently acceptable for any medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Hallucinogenic mushrooms are illegal in some countries including the U.S., U.K. and Canada. The sale of spores is less regulated than the sale of mushrooms themselves; however, some states and countries have both spores and mushrooms listed as illegal.


‘High-risk’ substances

Card networks have listed other substances as ‘high-risk’ meaning that while they are not currently necessarily illegal, it is recommended you closely monitor any merchants selling or advertising them. Key things to keep in mind are any regulatory changes or deceptive marketing strategies used in advertisements.

Fly Amanita or Agaraic mushrooms are not as popular due to the fact that they are potentially poisonous. They are frequently marketed as a psychoactive herbal product. While they are less regulated than other hallucinogenic mushrooms, regulations are starting to tighten up surrounding them.

Chewed leaves from a Kratom tree produce a stimulant effect in low doses, and a sedative effect in high doses. Since it produces a different effect depending on the quantity consumed is amongst one of the worries for governmental bodies, though no official laws have been passed.


Being Proactive

In order to remain compliant with card network regulations and your local and federal laws, it is important to monitor all of the merchants in your portfolio not just the ones considered ‘high-risk’. It is not unheard of for a merchant to appear legitimate and compliant one day, and then begin selling brand damaging or illegal material the next – including some of the controlled substances listed above.

Through careful monitoring of all your merchants and regular review of activity you will be able to keep a diverse and profitable portfolio. By Knowing Your Customers, you can rest assured that you and your merchants are staying compliant, especially with the evolving laws and regulations surrounding psychoactive substances.

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