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‘Legal Highs’ Campaign Launched In Leeds

December 6, 2012, 12:45 pm

A campaign to target so-called ‘legal highs and raise awareness of the potential health risks associated with them has been launched by the police and partner agencies in Leeds.

With the Christmas party season already getting underway, the citys community safety partnership Safer Leeds is heading up an initiative which aims to make people aware of the dangers they face by taking these substances, which are manufactured as chemical substitutes for illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.

At the same time high street “head shops” that trade in these products in the city will find themselves under an increased focus by the authorities to ensure they are complying with the existing regulations surrounding the sale of these items.

By labelling them “not for human consumption” or marketing them as “research chemicals” or “bath salts”, businesses are not breaking the law, provided they dont sell to under-18s or tell buyers how to consume the substances for intoxicating effects.

The compounds are produced in laboratories, mainly in China and India, to be sufficiently chemically different from the illegal drugs they mimic to avoid coming under existing drugs legislation.

There have been a number of incidents in West Yorkshire where young people have been taken seriously ill and have required hospital treatment after consuming such substances. In other parts of the UK, the deaths of young people have been linked to the products.

As the market for ‘legal highs continues to boom, with about 50 new types appearing every year, authorities in Leeds are keen to do all they can to limit the potential harm to young people in the city.

Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Commander of City & Holbeck Division, said: “Just because they can be bought legally, it doesnt mean they are safe for people to take. We are very concerned that because these substances are being sold openly in the city and on the internet young people may feel they can take them without risk.

“Experts tell us that most of these synthetic compounds have no real research or testing behind them and are put together in laboratories abroad with the main aim being to circumvent existing drugs legislation and maximise their profits.

“There doesnt appear to be any thought given to the short or long-term impact on peoples health, which is why we feel it is important to take a firm stand now to make sure we do all we can to limit the damage they can do.”

The campaign, which has been funded by cash taken from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act, includes the distribution of advertising and marketing material across the city alongside a programme of awareness-raising visits to schools, colleges and universities.

This work will highlight the risks associated with taking ‘legal highs that include breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, paranoia, psychosis, hallucinations, coma, seizures and death.

Officers will also be working with city licensees to distribute literature in pubs, clubs and bars.

At the same time police and representatives of partner agencies will be visiting shops that sell ‘legal highs to make them aware of the campaign and check they are complying with the regulations governing their sale.

Chief Supt Money added: “There is a real responsibility on the shops selling these products to make sure that they are operating within the regulations and are doing all they can to limit any risks to peoples health. We will be reminding them of their responsibilities during this campaign and hope they will recognise the benefits of working with us.

“The recent Government announcement making some of these substances illegal is to be welcomed but we appreciate that this is a fast-moving industry which the law is still catching up with. Thats why it is important that for now we do everything we can to educate people about the risks.”

Anyone who wants information, help and advice about drugs can contact confidential helpline service FRANK, by calling 0800 77 66 00, texting 82111, or visitingwww.talktofrank.com

Leeds Club Drug Clinic also offers help and advice for people with problems related to ‘party drugs. Further information is available on their websitehttp://leedsclubdrugclinic.com/

 
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