Legal highs to be banned
Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
Three types of artificial ‘legal highs’ are set to be banned before the end of the year, the Home Office has confirmed.
GBL – gamma-butyrolactone – which is used by clubbers as a substitute for banned drug GHB, known as “liquid ecstasy”, will be placed in Class C along with BZP, an amphetamine replacement.
It means users could be punished with a two-year jail term and dealers up to 14 years.
The cannabis substitute Spice, which is made using synthetic chemicals and herbs and is linked to mood swings and paranoia will be a Class B drug – the same classification given to the natural version of the drug.
The Home Secretary Alan Johnson said the move was based on advice from the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs:
He said: “Legal highs are an emerging threat, particularly to young people, and we have a duty to educate them about the dangers.
“There is a perception that many of the so-called legal highs are harmless, however in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis.”
BZP was linked by a coroner in Sheffield to the death of 22-year-old mortgage broker Daniel Backhouse earlier this year.
It is understood that Mr Backhouse had also taken ecstasy.
Hester Stewart, who was 21 and a medical student, died after taking GBL in Brighton last year. Her parents have since campaigned for the substance, known as liquid ecstasy, to be banned.
Charity DrugScope said law alone was “a blunt instrument” and greater education was needed about the drugs’ effects.
To that end, the Home Office said it would begin an awareness campaign in university freshers’ weeks in September to highlight the dangers.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, said: “While we support the classification of substances such as GBL and BZP, the law alone is a blunt instrument.
“We have concerns that in lumping all these substances together as ‘legal highs’, the significant differences in the effects and potential harms might be hard for young people to identify.
“It is important that public information and education campaigns are comprehensive and ongoing.”