DRUG campaigners have warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to the death of Portobello teenager Alex Heriot, pictured below, after it was claimed that one new legal high drug is emerging each week.
Calls have been made to ban the Benzo Fury party drug, understood to have been taken by the 19-year-old before his death at the RockNess music festival in Inverness at the weekend.
But it has been warned that if the substance is banned, youngsters could move on to other drugs which are just as readily available.
The tragedy has brought comparisons with the Mephedrone drug, which was banned two years ago after it was linked with a string of deaths, but other legal highs soon took its place.
The director of the Capital-based drugs agency Crew 2000 today called on policy makers to “keep their heads” and look more closely at how Benzo Fury is being used before taking action. John Arthur said: “Benzo Fury and Mephedrone are a product of us banning other things. That shows we’re not going to get anywhere by banning substances, and instead should be educating people.
“Policy makers acted with the best of intentions. But putting a ban in place is counter-productive because people will move on to something else.”
It is believed that legal highs are being produced at record levels, and experts said that the authorities are struggling to deal with a “moving target”.
David Liddell, director of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “As with all these drugs, there’s no knowing what’s actually in them. Even with the Home Office temporary banning orders to fast-track crackdowns on supply, there are always drugs coming on to the market to take their place.”
The warnings came as two other festival-goers who were taken to hospital after taking Benzo Fury were discharged.
A 19-year-old woman, believed to have been Mr Heriot’s girlfriend, and a 20-year-old man, were released from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.
Mr Heriot’s mother, Deirdre Heriot, yesterday paid an emotional tribute to her son, who she described as “beautiful on the outside and the inside”.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said that Holyrood is working closely with the Home Office and Scottish police to seize and test legal highs, and that a case may be made for a temporary banning order.
They added: “This helps us to provide information to A&E departments, clinicians and services to better protect any users and to act in an emergency situation.”