Without a doubt, legal highs have always been a serious issue in Europe, but recent figures have suggested that they are about to become even more serious, with claims that the death rate from these seemingly ‘harmless’ drugs has increased in the UK from 10 in 2009, to 68 in 2012. These figures are astonishing, and suggest only one thing: that the number is increasing.

Legal highs, also known as ‘psychoactive substances’, tend to be marketed towards younger people and are presented in bright packaging. It is believed that many people buying hallucinogenic drugs are unaware of what they are putting into their bodies, which makes them particularly dangerous. A government spokesperson has stated that there is ‘no simple solution’ to the problem, despite the fact that the government have recently imposed bans on more than 250 substances in the UK alone since the coalition came into power in 2010. The spokesperson continues that ‘drugs are illegal because they are harmful and often deadly’, as proved by the increasing death-rate in teenagers due to the cause, a main motivation in banning these so called ‘legal highs’ all together.

It has been said that the government are considering how current legislation can be toughened to combat the dangerous trade of selling and making these drugs, ensuring that anyone involved in creating especially harmful substances are brought to justice. The Home Office have stated that they have no intention of licencing shops that wish to sell legal highs, after a minister appeared to support the idea, suggesting that these outlets could be treated like sex shops – with blacked out windows and barring under-18s in order to refrain from openly publicising the selling of the drug. But isn’t allowing these shops a licence just encouraging youngsters to experiment? If under-18s manage to drink alcohol, there is nothing stopping them from buying these legal-highs, especially with modern day technologies allowing kids to create fake identification for themselves, stating them to be older than they are. The outlets, which do exist in some areas of the UK, sell ‘legal highs’ including New Age herbs, ‘party powders’ and smoking-related highs.

Home Office minister Norman Baker stated that reviews of ‘legal highs’ could lead to major changes in UK Drug Legislation. It has been estimated that one new substance a week is being detected across Europe, making it almost impossible for governments to ban these new substances before they are shipped to the UK – many of them being spread by via the Internet, without actually being sold in shops. The substances, mostly created in laboratories in East Asia, are a very serious issue for public health. Baker added: “The coalition government is conducting a review into new psychoactive substances, and alongside our programme of work, we are looking at a range of options including legislative ones to enable us to deal with the dangers many of these substances present even more speedily and effectively.”

Recent figures have suggested that only 20% of new psychoactive substances have a legitimate use, meaning that as much as 80% of these drugs are being used recreationally by people that don’t know what they are taking, or how it can harm them. The drugs being made in Asia, it is impossible for UK governments to trace exactly what is being used in their creation, but The Home Office are eager to inform people to stay away from these substances where possible, as they are generally quite damaging to health.

The government are holding a summit of drug experts as it attempts to tackle the ongoing issue of legal highs and their consequences – but one thing is for certain, it is unlikely these drugs will be sold in stores across Europe before long, let alone being distributed over the Internet. The Home Office have reportedly been taking stead from Ireland and New Zealand, where bans on new substances are being brought in and legal highs are being dealt with as a health issue.

Sadly, though, only time will tell. Let’s hope that teens have the sense to stay away from these potentially life-threatening drugs, and would rather value their lives over a few hours feeling invincible.

Reference:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26383774

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26359210

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-25710421

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23058289