Tackling ‘legal highs’ should be more of a priority, says Swanswell

07 November 2012

Swanswell’s calling on the government to make tackling legal highs more of a priority, as new figures show a big increase in deaths caused by substances such as ‘meow meow’.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to a report for the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths, which revealed 43 people in the UK died after taking now banned methcathinones in 2010.

In comparison, five people died after taking ‘legal highs’ in 2009 according to the report, compiled by the International Centre for Drug Policy based at St George’s, University of London.

Overall, drug-related deaths fell by just under 14% from 2,182 in 2009 to 1,883 in 2010 (the latest figures), with the number of heroin-related deaths falling significantly from 53% of all drug-related deaths in 2009 to 41% in 2010 (reports BBC News).

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While it’s encouraging to see that the number of drug-related deaths have fallen significantly, it’s worrying that the number of legal high-related deaths is increasing.

They are called ‘legal highs’ because they are not covered by the current misuse of drugs laws and are legal to possess or to use but that doesn’t mean they’re safe or approved (see NHS Choices). They are often used like illegal substances such as cocaine or cannabis and can potentially be very dangerous, particularly if mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

Although some former legal highs such as methcathinones are now classified as class B drugs with others set to follow, it’s clear more needs to be done to stop the rapid growth in their use by providing better information and education about the dangers.

However, tackling drug – or alcohol – misuse is not something any single government, organisation or individual can do on their own. We all have a part to play.’

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