Comment: Availability in shops implies less danger

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make no mistake about it, so-called legal highs are a menace.

These substances are promoted on the Internet as a safe alternative to illegal drugs such as heroin and Ecstasy. They are nothing of the sort – they are, in fact, exactly the opposite. Deaths from legal highs may be relatively uncommon, but dealing with the fall-out of young people experimenting with this new wave of drugs is part of the daily business of the Capital’s Royal Infirmary. Talk to some of the medics who have to pick up the pieces when things go wrong and you will be left in no doubt of their destructive power. Frightening cases of pyschosis and liver damage are all too common.

Yet the myth persists that these are somehow a less risky way of dabbling in drugs than the illegal substances chosen by previous generations. That is one of the reasons why the seizure of “legal highs” from shops across the city is a very welcome move. As one owner warns today it is likely that the supply of these drugs will simply fall into the hands of criminals. But that is no reason to let these shops continue to peddle their trade on our local high streets.

Selling these items on the high street gave an impression that they are less dangerous than those sold on street corners and in backrooms. That is a dangerous message to send out – and entirely wrong.

There is no reason to suppose that what is on sale in so-called head shops is any safer than what backstreet dealers might sell. In fact, there is every reason to believe it is just as bad.

As well as seizing these substances where they can, that is the message that the authorities must continue to spell out at every opportunity. Maybe getting some of these medics to tell firsthand of their experiences in our schools would be another powerful dissuader to anyone tempted to dabble.