Northamptonshire charity welcomes ban on ‘legal highs’ but sounds note of caution

So-called legal highs will be banned under a new bill.
So-called legal highs will be banned under a new bill.

A charity in the county which works to educate and inform about the risks of ‘legal highs’ has welcomed the proposed ban in Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech.

Solve It works across Northamptonshire to give young people the skills and understanding of how to make a safe choice when it comes to so-called legal highs.

Originally the charity focused on solvent abuse, but these days the variety of the substances being used means the charity has expanded its scope.

At the moment in the UK there are certain banned drugs like cocaine and cannabis, but there is a loophole allowing people to slightly alter the structure of the active chemicals to create new drugs with similar properties. Or they find chemicals already on sale for other uses that have an effect on people and market them. These ‘New Psychoactive Substances’ (NPS) can then be sold and used openly, until the Government catches up and bans that particular chemical, prompting another minor alteration to be made and the cycle starts again.

In the Queen’s Speech the Government announced a new bill to put a blanket ban on anyone producing or supplying these drugs.

The complete ban on NPS would mean selling newly-created or newly-used drugs that can cause effects in mood, perception or consciousness would be illegal, with a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.

Kevin Shapland, chairman of the trustees at Solve It, said: “Anything that helps to combat this problem is welcome.

“But it won’t solve the problem. The Welsh Assembly explored such a ban and concluded that while a ban would help reduce usage, education and advice would remain key.

“You only have to look at drugs like cocaine to realise that you can ban something, but if people want it they will find a way to get it.

“This ban will hit the ‘head shops’ on the high street, but many of these substances can be bought from abroad online, and others are for sale in the UK for legitimate use like nitrous oxide or laughing gas which is widely used in catering.

“If people think that once we’ve banned these NPS drugs the problem will be solved they are wrong.”