LEGAL highs are a gateway drug linked to organised crime and violence.
That is the message from senior police and youth representatives as an awareness week is launched today.
Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes is running a week-long campaign called Lethal Highs with the Youth Commission.
It comes just weeks after The News launched its own campaign to combat the drugs, which are linked to multiple deaths.
Detective Chief Inspector Ellie Hurd said: ‘Minimising the harm caused by the supply and use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) is a priority for us all.
‘Consumption of NPS can cause serious physical and mental illness and even death. It is associated with increased anti-social behaviour, aggression and violence and has a significant impact on families and communities in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight.’
‘NPS supply also has links to other crime types such as child sexual exploitation and other serious and organised crime,’ she said.
‘We are pleased to be working with the Youth Commission and other partners to raise awareness of NPS and the consequences of its use.’
Mr Hayes has campaigned for more regulation on the mind-altering substances.
He said: ‘With the number of deaths related to these substances increasing year on year, it is unsurprising that they are of great concern to young people.
‘A clear message needs to be sent out that just because these substances are being sold as legal, as a result of a loophole in the law, this doesn’t mean they are safe.’
Currently legal highs can be banned but creators change their chemical make-up, thwarting any ban.
A bill is currently going through parliament aimed at greater regulation.
Louis Faith from the Youth Commission said: ‘I feel that NPS are more of a “gateway” drug than any another substance.
‘There are so many different types and just a small amount could harm your body because of all the bad chemicals they contain.
‘I hope the Lethal Highs campaign will discourage young people from taking them.’
As part of the campaign the Youth Commission is running a workshop with a former legal highs user.
Anyone can come along and there is no need to book. It starts tomorrow at 5pm in Leigh Park Community Centre, in Dunsbury Way, and ends at 6pm.