What would you do if you learned your teenager walked into a local head shop under the pretence of purchasing plant food or bath salts, only to find out the purchased substance was used to get high? The scenario is not so far-fetched any more. Head shops all over the UK sell what are known as Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS), better known on the street as ‘legal highs‘. Wigan Council and the Manchester police have teamed up to do something about them within their jurisdiction.
Legal highs are synthetic drugs created to mimic the effects of illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine. These are being purchased in larger numbers every day as both shopkeepers and kids have learned how to get around the law where drugs are concerned. According to sources, some 70 individuals have already died from using the substances.
In Wigan, council officials have been paying visits to local head shops in order to warn business owners not to sell to minors. Storeowners have been told that undercover work will be conducted by Manchester police to ensure that the law is being followed. Shopkeepers found in violation could be subject to very stiff penalties and possible prosecution.
Skirting the Laws
Manufacturers of NPS products are able to get around the law by carefully controlling what goes into their formulas. For example, they already know what ingredients in a typical dose of heroin make the drug illegal under current regulations. Therefore, they set about creating a synthetic substance that will mimic the effects of heroin without using ingredients with the same chemical make-up. Doing so enables them to get around drug laws.
For the record, legal high manufacturers cannot market their products for human consumption. In fact, they are illegal for that purpose. That is why the brightly coloured packaging used for the products indicate customers are purchasing plant food or bath salts. As far as the head shop owner is concerned, what the customer does with the product after leaving the store is not his or her concern.
Wigan Council and the Manchester police do not see it that way. They plan to hold shopkeepers accountable if they or their employees sell NPS products to minors. The crackdown will not completely eliminate the problem in the local area, but it is certainly a good start. We hope to see more jurisdictions take proactive measures to stop the flood of legal highs now on the streets.
Danger in Every Package
Proponents of novel psychoactive substances say these are relatively harmless when compared to the ‘real thing’. However, they are not. There are a number of problems with legal highs that make them extremely dangerous. For example, no one really knows what is in the products except the makers themselves. Moreover, those that make the drugs are demonstrating, by their behaviour, that their interest is not in the public health. They could very well be poisoning customers with every dose sold.
Of equal concern is the fact that new legal highs are coming onto the market at such a fast pace that the medical community is finding it difficult to keep up. This could result in accidental death or injury from an overdose because an emergency medical worker does not know how to treat an individual in trouble.
Nothing good can come out of the use of legal highs. Addiction Helper urges you not to use these products under any circumstances. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, please consider contacting us for help. We maintain a 24-hour recovery helpline staffed by trained counsellors waiting to provide free advice and referrals.