An in-depth investigation into the use of legal highs in the Harrogate district has received Government support.
The three-part Harrogate Advertiser series report, part two of which runs today, aims to highlight a surge of these deadly drugs in the district.
It revealed that children as young as 12 were trying these lethal substances, only legal as the law hasn’t yet caught up with them, detailing the impact from homeless charities to hospitals.
And this week, as the drive gathers pace and debates start on the best way to tackle the issue, the Home Office has backed the campaign.
“I welcome the Harrogate Advertiser series campaign to raise awareness of the risks of so-called ‘legal highs’,” said Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone.
“The Government is determined to clamp down on suppliers and traders of these new psychoactive substances (NPS), which have claimed the lives of too many young people.”
Legal highs are imitations of existing drugs like cocaine, amphetamine and cannabis, using chemistry to ‘tweak’ some of the ingredients so that they fall outside the law.
They aren’t illegal as they are changing so quickly it is almost impossible for law makers to keep up, with a new drug invented every week.
Drug and homeless charities say they have seen a huge surge in use in Harrogate in the past two years, with a spike in the last six months alone.
“Legal highs have changed the local drug scene hugely over the past few years,” said Michael Lawrence, from charity CRI, adding that it had seen a 190 per cent increase nationwide in the number of people asking for help in just eight months last year.
“We’ve seen a lot of people coming into services for support and advice, many of whom have been shocked by their experiences with NPS.
“Some people have badly hurt themselves while others have been arrested because of their actions while under the influence.
“A lot of people make the assumption that because they’re ‘legal’ they’re a safer option than controlled drugs, but that simply isn’t the case.
“The truth is that we just don’t know enough about the long term effects of any of the ‘legal highs,’ but even the short term effects can be extremely dangerous and potentially fatal.
“Our advice to anyone thinking of taking these untested substances is to please not take the risk. If you still decide to take them then make sure you are as informed as possible: further information and support is available through our dedicated ‘legal highs’ website www.strangemolecules.co.uk.”
The Harrogate Advertiser series, revealing last week that hospital admissions in the district have more than doubled in the last two years, is calling for an outright ban.
The Home Office is in the process of developing such proposals, Ms Featherstone said: “This would give law enforcement greater powers to tackle the market in so-called ‘legal highs’ in general, instead of a substance-by-substance approach.”
o The three-part Harrogate Advertiser series investigation, part one of which was published last week, is to examine in-depth the picture across the district.
This week, we speak to one woman about her devastating loss after her son became addicted to legal highs.
We meet with police, council, bars and youth workers about their views, and feature debates on the best way to tackle the issue.
See next week’s edition for an interview with some of those selling these drugs in Harrogate, as well as A&E doctors, chemists and schools.