The well-known think tank known as the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is calling on UK police agencies to get serious about closing head shops just as their Irish counterparts are doing. The think tank believes that a failure to aggressively deal with head shops selling so-called ‘legal highs’ could lead to greater numbers of deaths linked to the substances.

Also known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), legal highs are sold in head shops under the banner of plant food, research chemicals, or bath salts. These are labelled as such in order to get around regulations prohibiting their sale for human consumption. However, very few people are naïve enough to believe products with names like ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Benzo Fury’, or ‘Go Gaine’ are being sold to young people for completely legitimate reasons. We know why the products are being purchased, so perhaps it is time to shut down those who sell them.

According to this CSJ, there were 97 British deaths linked to legal highs in 2012. Furthermore, hospital admissions related to the drugs rose 56% between 2009 and 2012. If nothing is done to stop the trends, the CSJ believes that the number of deaths could reach as many as 400 by 2016. Such a nefarious achievement would eclipse the total number of heroin-related deaths annually.

Plenty of Blame to Share

The CSJ and others have been highly critical of regulatory efforts from the Government in recent years. To one extent, they have a very good case. Current Government policies seem to me more about maintaining addicts than actually treating them in a way that helps them stop using altogether. Nevertheless, as inadequate as the system now is, all of the blame for the emerging legal high problem does not rest with regulators.

The fact is there are now more than 250 legal high substances sold openly in the UK. New products come onto the market so quickly that it is nearly impossible for regulators to keep up with them. Keep in mind that banning a substance requires a scientific analysis of its components along with an analysis of the risk those components pose. It is not a simple matter of gathering a list of products and declaring them illegal.

Knowing that, the CSJ’s call to start closing down head shops makes perfect sense. Going after the shops is a good way to slow down the number of new products coming to the market, even as the government goes about analysing each of the existing products for classification and regulation. Combining the two would create a multi-faceted approach that could at least interrupt the flow at the supply level.

At the same time, the CSJ is also in favour of a new tax levied on alcohol sales – with the money going directly to funding addiction recovery programmes similar to that offered by private clinics. The CSJ laments the fact that residential treatment is only affordable to a certain segment of society, and rightly so. The way the government health system approaches addiction recovery needs to change. If it takes a new levy on alcohol to accomplish that, it might be worth it.

Addiction Helper understands the danger legal highs pose to present and future society. We agree something needs to be done to stem their flow and use. If you are using, we urge you to get the help you need to stop. Just because NPS products are legally sold at head shops does not mean they are safe. Please let us help you break your habit. You can call our free addiction recovery helpline today.

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