Legal Highs - the New Face of Drug Addiction

  • Added:
    Aug 04, 2014
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Legal Highs - the New Face of Drug Addiction Photo by Colin Armstrong

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) released a report in September 2013 showing that alcohol and drug addiction in the UK costs the country some £36 billion annually. Some believe that legalising certain drugs would help by allowing regulation and taxation to take place. However, that only solves one aspect of the problem. Raising money from the drug trade does not put an end to the human toll of abuse and addiction.

For evidence, one needs look no further than the new face of drug addiction: legal highs. The same CSJ report from last year suggests just over 8% of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 have used legal highs, also known as 'new psychoactive substances'. Rehab clinics are seeing a steady increase in the number of patients they are treating for addiction to these products.

A Shade of Grey

The UK has long had difficulty dealing with the flow of illicit drugs like heroin and crack. The CSJ report claims that the UK has the highest rate of opiate addiction in Europe and the highest rate of lifetime amphetamine use. Legal highs are only making the problem worse by occupying a grey area of the law that makes them much more difficult to control. That grey area can be found in the term ‘legal highs’ itself.

The substances we are talking about here are synthetic drugs that are manufactured to mimic the effects of illicit drugs while still being chemically different. The differences allow them to be legally sold on the open market because they are not classified has controlled substances. Nevertheless, there is a catch: the drugs cannot be sold for human consumption.

Manufacturers get around the restriction by labelling their products as plant food or bath salts. Head shops and other retailers operate the same way. Unfortunately, the nation's drug rehab clinics do not have that luxury. They are dealing first-hand with the effects of the new psychoactive substances on a daily basis.

Manufacturing and Sales

Getting a handle on the legal high problem requires us to address the manufacture and sale of the substances. This includes a robust online market that has made the postal service and unwitting partner in drug trafficking. Once again, the UK leads Europe in the online trade of legal highs. Yet one must ask, where are the financial benefits?

It is all well and good to say we should legalise parts of the drug trade in order to reduce the financial cost of abuse and addiction. However, if new psychoactive substances are any indication, legalisation only stands to make the problem worse. If we are going to legalise some illicit drugs, we should be prepared for drug and alcohol rehab clinics to need more funds for treatment – and that could wipe out any financial gain realised from legalisation.

Author's Profile is a referral service offering assistance to addicts looking for drug and alcohol rehab clinics. They work with private rehab clinics to provide bespoke treatments at facilities across the UK.

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