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Sunday 15 December 2019

Britain called on to follow Irish law on so-called legal highs

A range of substances being sold as legal highs in 'head shops' has been banned
A range of substances being sold as legal highs in 'head shops' has been banned

By Jamie Grierson

The UK Government should follow an Irish model of legislation in a bid to tackle legal highs, councils have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 400 councils, wants the UK to follow legislation introduced in Ireland four years ago that bans the sale of all "psychoactive" - or brain altering - drugs and then exempts some, such as alcohol and tobacco.

The Irish legislation has effectively eliminated all so-called headshops that sell legal highs, the LGA added.

Currently, when a legal high substance is outlawed, illegal-drug chemists are getting around the law by tweaking the chemical compound and creating a new legal high.

Councillor Ann Lucas, chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities board, said: "This is all about tackling the sellers.

"Legal high shops are becoming endemic to our high streets, which is why we are calling on the Government to introduce robust and vigorous new laws to tackle them. The sooner we put these so-called 'headshops' out of business for good, the better."

"A key priority is educating and informing younger people about the dangers and risks of these drugs and councils play a pivotal role in this."

Deaths from legal highs have more than doubled in the past four years from 26 in 2009 to 60 last year.

The synthetic psychoactive drugs, which usually have names like "Clockwork Orange", "Bliss" and "Mary Jane", have been directly linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions including in mental health services and, in some cases, deaths.

Councils spend about 30pc - £830 million a year - of their entire public health budget on drug and alcohol misuse - more than any other service.

Rosanna O'Connor, Director of Alcohol and Drugs at Public Health England said: "Beneath an overall declining trend in drug use, patterns of drug use are changing.

"Services need to be geared up to treat changing patterns of drugs use by recognising this difference and by adapting current treatment approaches and linking to specialist medical expertise. We're confident that they will be able to do this in the next few years if investment is maintained with ongoing support from PHE.

"PHE will be strengthening our efforts around tackling the use of new and emerging substances. We are working with national and local partners to raise awareness of the risks from these new drugs, prevent problems where possible and ensure treatment services are able to help people who need them.

"We are monitoring the use and impact of these newer drugs to build a better picture of the scale of the problem, and feeding information into a European-wide early warning system."

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