Legal high deaths soar in Scotland, new figures show

The number of deaths involving legal highs in Scotland has soared in recent years, according to the latest statistics.

The Government figures show that New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) either contributed to, or were present in, 114 deaths in the past year, compared to just four registered in 2009.

The number of legal high-related deaths has steadily increased, from 47 in 2012 rising to 113 in 2013.

Not acceptable

The Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP referred to the latest statistics during a debate on NPS in Holyrood.

He said: “One of the reasons why NPS are popular is their seemingly legitimate status.

“They are sold openly in our communities – on our high streets – which is not acceptable.

Psychotic conditions

“Some head shops are highly visible to school pupils when they are travelling to and from school.”

Head shops are outlets which sell legal highs.

He also said he was “genuinely taken aback at the extent to which individuals are presenting at accident and emergency with what appear to be psychotic conditions that are actually a result of a medical reaction to the effects of NPS, such as overheating following the use of stimulants”.

An expert review group is working closely with the Westminster Government on a UK-wide Bill to ban legal highs.


Referring to the high level of NPS sales in Scotland, Labour MSP Graeme Pearson said during the debate: “We need a commitment to the use of licensing regulations to prevent head shops from operating at festivals and concerts”.

He also called for planning regulations to be used to manage the presence of such shops in town centres.

New guidance was issued last month to help trading standards officers in Scotland crack down on shops selling legal highs.

The nationwide toolkit aims to ensure officials use the best practice and best laws to stop the retailers.