POLICE have published figures which highlight the alarming rate that legal highs have grown in popularity in recent years.
The number of incidents recorded by Hampshire Constabulary involving legal highs rose from 63 in 2012 to 403 last year.
The police force was one of 18 across the country that responded to a Freedom of Information request about the rise in legal high cases.
Only two other police forces outside Hampshire had a higher rate of incidents involving legal highs – Lincolnshire with 820 and 465 in South Yorkshire.
It comes after Inspector Clare Jenkins revealed to The News how underage girls had been offered free mephedrone in exchange for sex.
Operation Tapestry Action Group, which includes Gosport Borough Council, was set up earlier this year to tackle young people using the class B drug, known as meow meow, drone and M-Cat, which was once classified as a legal high but is now banned.
Forty-five police incidents involving M-Cat were logged in 2014, up from 28 in 2013 and six in 2012.
As reported, father-of-three Matthew Flatman, 35, of Rogers Close, Gosport, died after snorting around five lines of a legal high called Gocaine.
Former Portsmouth Tory councillor Alistair Thompson, who presented Hampshire police’s statistics at a meeting of all councillors, said: ‘These figures are very alarming.
‘Here we have head shops, that for all intents and purposes, are selling plant food which they have a very good idea will be ingested as a legal high.’
Meanwhile, a major study released last week showed users of legal highs risk health impacts including coma, psychosis, kidney failure and cardiac arrest.
The drugs were linked with 67 deaths in Britain last year.