The News launches campaign raising awareness and demanding action against ‘devastating’ legal highs

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Bob Higgins at an earlier court hearing  Picture Habibur Rahman/Solent News

Trial date for ex-Southampton football coach accused of abuse

  • Health expert warns taking legal highs is the same as playing ‘Russian roulette’ with your life
  • Police figures show number of reports associated with drug have soared
  • Region’s MP throw their support behind The News’ campaign
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CHOOSE to take legal highs and you will play Russian roulette with your life.

That is the stark warning from health experts and activists as The News today launches a campaign to raise greater awareness of the lethal substances’ crippling impact and to see the law on the use and distribution of legal highs changed urgently.

Having seen some of the devastating results of people taking legal highs, people should be absolutely terrified of taking these drugs.

Doctor Jane Boskovic, who specialises in substance misuse

It comes as shocking statistics show a surge in reports of legal high use, leading to civic leaders attempting to thrash out ways of banning them from shops and streets.

Police incidents in Hampshire involving legal highs – also called new psychoactive substances – have shot up from 63 to 403 in just three years, and that is expected to rise as they become more widespread and available to buy.

The message is loud and clear – people of all ages run the serious risk of death or causing permanent damage to their body and health if they buckle to peer pressure and continue to consume these ‘toxic cocktails’.

And all of the region’s MPs and other community leaders have backed our initiative Legal Highs: Only Lows to raise greater awareness and seek change.

Doctor Jane Boskovic, who specialises in substance misuse at The Baytrees drink and drugs treatment unit, in Milton, Portsmouth, said: ‘Legal highs are incredibly dangerous and devastating. Having seen some of the devastating results of people taking legal highs, people should be absolutely terrified of taking these drugs. They are equally as dangerous as classic drugs, if not more.

‘Maybe it’s an exciting thing to try these drugs, but people really are playing Russian roulette with their lives.

‘The reason for that is because these are new substances, and the thing about classic drugs, like amphetamine, methadone and opiates, is they have been developed from medical drugs. People have found they give them highs, and abuse them.

‘However with legal highs, we don’t know the effect they all have on people’s bodies. They are very addictive in very vast quantities.’

While some legal highs have been banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act – such as meow meow naphyrone, BZP and GBL – many alternatives are still legal to buy and we are seeking for a blanket ban to be rolled out by the government.

It comes as Portsmouth City Council launches a drive, supported by The News, aimed at increasing awareness of the risks associated with legal highs.

Packs containing posters and postcards are being sent to all secondary schools in the area and specialist training sessions are being held for staff and pupils. Pubs and clubs are also being sent posters, banners and leaflets.

And plans are moving forward to ban legal highs in Portsmouth’s public spaces.

Hampshire police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes, who has campaigned hard on the issue, said: ‘I am totally supportive of The News’ campaign against legal highs.

‘I hope it raises awareness of the very real danger they pose to the public and deters people from putting their lives at risk by using them.

‘For a long time, I have been calling for either a complete ban, or regulation, of all mind-altering substance.

‘Recently, I was very encouraged to hear the police minister say in parliament that he too would like to see a blanket ban on all new psychoactive substances and that we cannot – and should not – tolerate the open sale on our high streets and over the internet of these substances.

‘I intend to continue lobbying the government to do everything possible to prohibit the sale of these toxic cocktails and I look forward to collaborating with partners and the public to limit the harm they cause – particularly to our young people.’

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond, who has worked with affected families and campaigned against the rise of legal high ‘head shops’, said: ‘You are putting your life in the hands of a small drug – it could kill you the first time you take them.’

AIMS OF THE CAMPAIGN

* To ensure the government delivers on its pledge to impose a complete ban on the production, distribution, supply and sale of legal highs by formerly adopting the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

* To raise awareness of the lethal dangers of legal highs, especially among teenagers.

* To ensure other authorities follow the efforts made by Portsmouth City Council to come up with a comprehensive action plan detailing how the ban will be enforced, and who people should contact if they think someone is under the influence or suffering from the effects of legal highs.

* To ensure the government delivers on its pledge to impose a complete ban on the use and sale of legal highs by formerly adopting the Psychoactive Substances Bill.

* To raise awareness of the lethal dangers of legal highs, especially among teenagers.

* To ensure other authorities follow the efforts made by Portsmouth City Council to come up with a comprehensive action plan detailing how the ban will be enforced, and who people should contact if they think someone is under the influence or suffering from the effects of legal highs.