Legal highs are becoming more of a problem in Britain than hard drugs, a Home Office minister has warned.
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Norman Baker said dozens of young people were dying or risked horrific injuries after experimenting with new psychoactive substances.
He is warning that some legal highs — synthetic drugs which can be bought online and sometimes in shops — could be “more dangerous” than heroin or cocaine.
“So I have initiated a review of so-called legal highs, which are a particular problem at the moment and becoming more serious than some of the traditional drugs in many ways,” he said.
Mr Baker stressed that some legal highs could be harmless.
He said: “We don’t know what the long-term consequences of these things are. They are more of a problem because we don’t know what they are until we have analysed them.”
“We have got a history of knowing what cocaine does or heroin does over decades and we are able to come up with some sort of policy.
“There is no such history of knowledge with some of these substances.”
Intelligence suggests that use among school pupils is on the increase – every secondary school in Lincoln bar one has reported incidents to the police.
Lincolnshire public protection agencies are warning that it is only a matter of time before there are deaths.
Police, trading standards and public health officials have joined forces to tackle the use legal highs in Lincolnshire.
Mr Baker said new substances were being developed “almost on a weekly basis” in laboratories across the world and were creating a “public health” problem in Britain.
He said: “If they have temporarily come up with a chemical formula which means a drug is outside the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, for the time being — until we get round to dealing with it — it then is a legal substance, at least temporarily.
“So then young people sometimes conclude wrongly that it’s safe because they think, not unreasonably in some ways, that if it was unsafe it would have been banned.”
Mr Baker added: “There is not a history of medical assessment to give us a knowledge base.”
He stressed he was not saying that heroin and cocaine were not dangerous but that legal highs presented “un- known” risks.
He said young people were now being forced to have colostomy bags fitted after having their bladders destroyed by ketamine, a horse tranquilliser which is a controlled drug.
Originally posted at: http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/Legal-highs-dangerous-heroin-cocaine-warns-Home/story-20446240-detail/story.html