Police incidents involving so-called ‘legal highs’ have more than doubled over a period of twelve months, new figures have demonstrated.
Data from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) showed that there were at least 3,652 incidents last year, compared to 1,356 in the previous year.
Some of the largest increases were witnessed in rural areas, including Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
The study, compiled using freedom of information requests, showed that in Lincolnshire the number of legal high incidents rose from just seven in 2011 to a staggering 820 last year.
Hampshire’s figures saw an over 40-fold increase, jumping from nine to 403 over the same period.
Christian Guy, director of the CSJ, said: “As well as posing worrying health risks, these figures suggest ‘legal highs’ are placing increasing pressure on public services”.
Dangerous and addictive
He added: “It is too easy for young people to walk into high street shops and buy these drugs – many of them as dangerous and addictive as Class A substances.
“If we want to start responding to the problems caused by ‘legal highs’ we need to clamp down on those making a living out of selling them.”
The drugs, which mimic the effects of illegal substances such as heroin and cannabis, are formally known as new psychoactive substances.
Currently psychoactive substances are banned on a case-by-case basis in the UK. But the Home Office is drafting new legislation to place a blanket ban on all such substances. It hopes to have this in place ahead of the General Election in May.
Theresa May said: “A couple of proposals have come out and we are looking to work on a blanket ban based on the sort Ireland has to make enforcement easier”.
“The problem is we can ban a substance and the people making it then slightly tweak the compound, and because we have banned that compound the next set is not covered by that ban. So we are looking at a different approach based on the impact they have on the brain.”