‘Legal Highs’ or Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are drugs which mimic, or are claimed to mimic, the effects of illegal drugs.
There is a common, but mistaken, perception that because ‘Legal Highs’ are not legally controlled or banned they are safe.
None of them, however, have been subjected to the stringent testing procedures which are required before a new medicine for human use is granted a license and, consequently, there is a significant risk of harmful effects resulting from their use.
To avoid legislation ‘Legal Highs’ are often marketed as:
‘Not for human consumption’ and may be described as ‘plant food’ or ‘bath crystals’.
They are commonly labelled as ‘research chemicals’ and no safety data is supplied.
The content of these products is variable. Users who are in possession of what they think are ‘Legal Highs’ may well be in possession of controlled substances and could face the prospect of being subject to prosecution and a criminal record if found in possession of them by the police.
Professor Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said: “This has become a high priority agenda item for the ACMD and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future as the new compounds continue to emerge.
“The European Monitoring Centre logged in 60 new compounds last year and there’s been a similar rate this year. That’s one a week.
“They list some 200 different psychoactive chemicals that lie outside the legal scope of our existing regulations.
“Our problem is to know how many of these are really being used in this country and how harmful are they and this is difficult because we can’t possibly address all classes of compounds at once, unless we and the Government can think of cleverer ways of regulating… So this is an area we’re looking at with a great deal of caution and worry.”
Mr Iversen said legal highs were a world-wide phenomenon as dealers show “blatant misuses of the existing law” to sell the compounds legally.
He said: “Novel psychoactive chemicals are made in China one week and shipped here for human consumption next week without any safety data accompanying it. To me that’s an appalling situation.
“Sooner or later we will get unexpected and serious harm emerging with one of these compounds and then we will blame ourselves for allowing them to be sold without the usual safety data.
“That’s why I think this is a serious problem, it’s not just a nice set of party drugs that we can let people get on with, it’s a set of chemicals that are potentially very dangerous.”
In light of this, Warwickshire County Council’s Drug & Alcohol Action Team have developed a ‘Legal Highs’ campaign.
Please get in touch if you see the posters around Warwickshire or if you know of places we should target.
For help and information visit: Warwickshire.gov.uk/drugs.