The Queen announced Home Office plans to introduce a nationwide blanket ban on so-called ‘legal highs’ today in the first all-Conservative Queen’s Speech since 1996.
Lincoln became the first city to ban legal highs in February this year. The police there now have the power to confiscate the drugs and hand out on-the-spot penalties.
Campaigners who have called for the ban argue that the new psychoactive substances have caused a plethora of premature deaths. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published a study in 2012 which concluded that deaths from legal highs had increased by 600% between 2009 and the year of publication. However, Prof. David Nutt, widely considered to be the number one researcher of recreational drugs, called the validity of the findings into question and warned the public to treat the figures with caution.
He said that they were “inflated” as they included deaths from substances that would not meet the definition of legal highs. For instance, 20 of the deaths included in the report were recorded as the result of PMMA which has been illegal since 1977.
In response to Nutt’s evaluation the ONS told The Guardian:
ONS has not ‘massaged’ the figures for political purposes. It is an impartial organisation and subject to a strict code of practice.
Many people have questioned whether alcohol, tobacco and caffeine would be included in the new ban as they would certainly meet the definition of legal highs. More ONS statistics show us that 8,367 died from alcohol-related deaths in 2012 – compared to 68 from legal highs – and the Nation Health Service have drawn our attention to the fact that alcohol consumption is the number one cause of liver disease.
Others have placed the blame for the popularity of the new drugs on the police and government for dubbing them ‘legal highs’. The term, described by drug charity Know the Score as “misleading, as it implies they are safe”, has now been replaced in favour of ‘new psychoactive substances’.
Should we be concentrating on educating people on the danger of binge drinking instead? Oh wait, no, the government makes loads of money taxing that drug.
Do you think we should ban all legal highs?