A CORONER has spoken out about an increase in the number of deaths linked to legal highs.
Senior coroner David Horsley, who covers Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant, said he had seen a rise over the last four years.
He said: ‘They are getting mentioned more and more, not only in police evidence but coming to light from toxicology on post mortem reports.
‘I’ve had a number of deaths with legal highs and also more recently where people are dying and the toxicology reveals a combination of things, both illegal substances and legal highs.
‘It is a problem and particularly with the so-called legal highs that they can, and often are, as dangerous as prohibited substances.
‘The problem is as soon as the government bans one, these resourceful chemists come up with a new one that circumvents the prohibition.
‘It’s been described to me as a game of “whack the rabbit” – as soon as you hit one another one pops up. I don’t know what the answer to it is.
‘These things, you are playing with something deadly.’
Mr Horsley has previously written to the government asking for Gocaine to be banned after the cardiac arrest death of Gosport man Matthew Flatman, 35.
Mr Horsley added: ‘They buy them in head shops and the proprietors of the shops are not under any obligation to find out what’s in the product they’re selling. They just sell the stuff because it’s legal.
‘They’re made in such twilight circumstances that there’s no guarantee that it’s going to contain what it says on the box. It’s a very dangerous thing to do.’
The New Psychoactive Substances Act was given Royal Assent last month.
It makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances.
The maximum sentence is seven years in jail. Critics of the law say it is too wide.
The News launched a campaign last year to raise awareness of the dangers of legal highs, and pressure the government to bring in a complete ban.