Legal highs have been causing concern among health experts and parents for some time, but a recent government announcement that a ban is to be implemented came as welcome news. These ‘legal’ substances contain a number of chemical ingredients, and they are manufactured to mimic illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis.
The problem with legal highs is the fact that many youngsters assume it is safe to take them, as the substances are labelled ‘legal’. However, these substances can be extremely dangerous and have been linked to a number of deaths.
Legal highs are typically sold as plant food, incense, and bath salts as they cannot be sold as fit for human consumption. Nevertheless, that does not stop many youngsters from smoking, inhaling or ingesting these products.
For so long, the manufacturers of legal highs have been able to get around legislation implemented to ban certain ingredients by simply replacing them with another legal ingredient. This has often resulted in these substances becoming more dangerous. Nonetheless, the new legislation proposes a ban on all legal highs with the exception of alcohol, tobacco and certain medications. New draft laws are expected to reveal punishments of up to seven years for those found supplying or manufacturing legal highs.
Concerns with Proposed Ban
Despite the proposed ban being welcomed by many parents and health officials, there are calls for the ban to be put on hold as the Irish system it is based on is ‘flawed’. A senior drugs officer from Ireland has said that the ban introduced in the Republic of Ireland often leaves the police powerless to act against offenders. In the past five years and since the law was introduced, only five prosecutions have been successful. The reason for this is that the police must be able to prove that a specific legal high produces a psychoactive effect. These problems with legislation mean that a large number of offenders are not being prosecuted.
Detective Sergeant Tony Howard who is one of the top drug squad officers in Ireland said, “Police scientists have examined samples of the drugs but have so far been unable to prove that they are technically ‘psychoactive’.
These admissions from Ireland have led to some experts calling for the UK Government to postpone the proposed ban in the UK until a full impact assessment of the Irish ban can be carried out.
Legal High Deaths
Even though there is a ban in place in the Republic of Ireland, certain substances are still readily available, and young people are still dying as a result. In one Monaghan estate, two young men died after using a form of synthetic cannabis. The brother of one of the men has described the drug as ‘more addictive and dangerous than heroin’. David O’Leary, whose brother Michael died from taking the drugs, said, “It’s a dirty, dirty drug. You want to cut yourself to pieces or cut your throat or hang yourself.”
The second man from the estate who died because of synthetic cannabinoid Clockwork Orange was PJ McQuaid. When he killed himself because of his addiction, a public meeting was called by residents from the estate and police officials. However, when the police explained that Clockwork Orange was legal despite the blanket ban, the meeting turned sour, with many residents blaming the police for not tackling the dealers. Police sources have said that there is little they can do, as they have to act within the law.
Help for Addiction
It looks as though legal highs will continue to be a problem in the UK for some time but, thankfully, there are places from which those with addiction can get help. Addiction Helper is a free service working hard to put clients in touch with treatment providers in their area. If you or a loved one is suffering because of legal highs, contact us today for information about addiction politics and how we can help.