EDINBURGH is fast becoming the “legal-high capital” of the UK, MSPs have been told.
A debate at the Scottish Parliament heard that the city had up to 15 ‘head shops’ selling New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)
The News told earlier this year how drug-related admissions to NHS Lothian hospitals have soared in the past five years, with government and health officials blaming the increase on legal highs and “an ageing cohort of drug users”.
And yesterday MSPs were told that deaths from so-called legal highs may not yet have reached their peak.
Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish Government Community Safety Minister, said the latest figures show there were 114 deaths where NPS had been taken in the last year – up from just four in 2009.
He told MSPs it is “unacceptable” such substances are being legally sold on high streets.
Mr Wheelhouse also said he had been “genuinely taken aback” by the number of people treated in accident and emergency departments after taking them.
He described NPS as posing a “hugely significant challenge to the health and well-being of the people of Scotland”, and said the substances “mimic the effect of controlled drugs and can be just as harmful”.
He told MSPs: “Just because a substance is advertised as legal does not mean it is safe for human consumption. When it comes to NPS it’s impossible to know a product’s contents and the dangers it may pose.
“Deaths where NPS were found to be present have risen from four in 2009 to 114 in 2015, although I should stress that is not necessarily the only cause of death of the individual and not necessarily the main cause either.
“But we have yet, perhaps, to see the peak in the numbers.”
Some of the “head shops” which sell NPS are “highly visible to pupils travelling to and from school”, he added, telling MSPs the Scottish Government is now working with Westminster on legislation to tackle the issue.
Conservative MSP Margaret Mitchell said: “Edinburgh, with as many as 15 ‘head shops’, is fast becoming the legal high capital of the UK so I warmly welcome the measures outlined in Mr Wheelhouse’s speech.”
She said so-called legal highs have had “horrendous consequences” for users.
“These include incidents of confirmed deaths, multiple amputations, paranoid delusions, attempted murders, suicidal tendencies and violent and sexual crimes,” she said.
Labour’s Graeme Pearson said so-called legal highs could be better described as “lethal highs”.