Deaths from ‘legal highs’ cut in half following Govt clampdown

New figures reveal a dramatic drop in deaths from so-called legal highs following the Government’s blanket ban.

In contrast cocaine deaths increased for the sixth year in a row, according to numbers from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Despite the overall death toll of 3,756 in England and Wales last year, pro-drug campaigners called for the Government to facilitate drug taking.

Rising trend

According to the figures, 61 people died from taking new psychoactive substances – or ‘legal’ highs – in 2017. In the previous year 123 people died.

Legislation introduced in May 2016 outlawed such substances, with dealers facing up to seven years in prison if caught.

By comparison, cocaine deaths were at a record high last year, with fatalities showing “a rising trend since 2011”.


Ellie Osborn, ONS Health Analysis Statistician, said “despite deaths from most opiates declining or remaining steady, deaths from fentanyl continued to rise, as did cocaine deaths”.

But the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, which backs legalisation of drugs including ‘specialist pharmacists’ for cocaine, called for a radical weakening of the law.

It said ministers should “stop criminalising people who use drugs, and allow supervised drug consumption rooms now”.


The Government has so far rejected ‘shooting galleries’, where users inject themselves with illegal drugs.

And in June it also ruled out softening laws on casual cannabis.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said his Department’s move in support of medical cannabis was “in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use”.

Javid told the House of Commons that cannabis “can harm people’s mental and physical health, and damage communities”.

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