Somerset Legal High Issue: Symptom of a Larger Problem

Police in Somerset are dealing with the very serious problem of addicts shooting up in public toilets – with legal highs purchased from local head shops. Officials say they are not only concerned about the drug addict themselves, but also the general public. They fear that a child may go into one of the public toilets only to find a discarded needle that could prove injurious.

The Daily Mail highlighted the problem in a report published on June 27 (2014). The report featured stunning video of two addicts who passed out on the floor of a public toilet after injecting themselves. It apparently took police 10 minutes to rouse the pair after they were discovered. In that time, members of the public were accessing the facilities.

Unfortunately, neither of the men was arrested because they were not in possession of illegal substances. And therein lies the problem with legal highs. As long as head shops do not state or imply their products are intended for human consumption, they are legal to sell. It is a common tactic to market legal highs as plant food or bath salts.

Use on the Rise

What Somerset officials are seeing in their county is not unusual. Use of legal highs has been on the rise in the UK for quite some time. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that manufacturers of the substances are churning out more and more with each passing day. According to the Daily Mail, the number of legal high substances now available on the market is up by 100 from last year to 348 as of this writing.

Doctors are finding it especially difficult to treat overdoses because of the large number of possible substances. When someone comes to the hospital for medical treatment, doctors have no idea what they have taken in some cases and, even when they do, some substances are new enough that the medical community doesn’t really know the dangers they present. This creates further fear that the number of fatalities will continue to rise until something is done to control legal highs.

Getting around the Law

So how exactly do manufacturers of legal highs get around the law? By being very careful about the ingredients put into their products. The goal is to manufacture something that will imitate the effects of illicit drugs like heroin or crack, while still being chemically different. Creating products that are chemically outside the boundaries of Class A drugs enables manufacturers to sell the substances openly and legally. The only caveat is that they cannot market the products for human consumption.

They get around that legal requirement by spreading the word person-to-person. It does not much matter what a product label says once word on the street makes it clear that something new is worth giving a try. The local head shop does not even have to advertise if it doesn’t want to. Once people know there is something new in the inventory, they will go try it. And try it they do.

Statistics from the Daily Mail report suggest that a shocking 10% of Britons have tried at least one legal high substance. Look around at your workplace; how many people do you work with? One out of every 10 has used a legal high at least once. Some of them are regular users.

There is no doubt that legal highs are changing the environment of drug use and misuse all across Europe. In the UK, we opted out of the EU regulatory framework earlier this year because it did not go far enough. We hope that our leaders will get together and come up with their own regulatory framework that will effectively deal with the problem.

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