User menu

Support for plan to tackle legal highs

Welsh Government plans to tackle the potential dangers of so-called 'legal highs' have been supported by BMA Cymru Wales.

Deputy health minister Vaughan Gething has said the Welsh Government will implement 14 recommendations made by the National Assembly's health and social care committee's recent inquiry into new psychoactive substances.

The recommendations include educating students in further and higher education institutions about the risks of using legal highs, as well as a public information campaign.

BMA Cymru Wales secretary Richard Lewis, pictured, said: 'We welcome this Welsh Government announcement to initiate a three-year delivery plan as part of its 10-year strategy.

‘The adverse health effects of these so-called legal highs is a particular concern. They are unregulated and the misnomer of a legal high is often misleading and we very much support the emphasis to engage and educate students in schools and higher education institutions to create a clear understanding that these products have unknown dangers and adverse health effects.’

Major health issue
Mr Gething said: 'Substance misuse is a major health issue which affects individuals, families and communities across Wales.

'We have witnessed a gradual change in drugs use over the last five years. Demand for traditional illicit drugs, such as heroin, is on the decline and the demand for new psychoactive substances has increased substantially over this time.

'Services, commissioners and policy makers have had to adapt to keep up with this fast-changing landscape. This is not easy to do, because as soon as you get to grips with one substance, a new one with a slightly different chemical structure is there to take its place.'

However, Mr Gething added that the legislation and classification of drugs was a matter reserved for the UK Government and was 'an area where we can see merit in having a UK-wide system for drug classification'.

'We are keen to ensure the UK Government responds with greater agility,' he said.

Blanket ban
The UK Government has already announced new plans designed to tackle the issue of legal highs, with a proposed Psychoactive Substances Bill included in this week's Queen's speech.

The bill would seek to impose a blanket ban on psychoactive substances intended for human consumption, and would make the production, supply, import or export of such substances an offence with a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment for offenders.

Following the publication of the Home Office expert review panel’s report on the misuse of drugs in October 2014, the Welsh minister for health and social services wrote to the Home Office to push for a speedy UK legislative response to ensure law enforcement agencies have the best available powers to tackle the problem.