‘Legal highs causing major health concerns’
A DEBATE hosted locally to discuss the impact of so-called ‘legal highs’ has revealed the UK is facing a public health challenge due to the continued increase in the use of designer drugs.
Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, Simon Edens, warned officers were seeing a rise in ‘bizarre behaviour’ from people suspected of taking the substances and that simply locking someone in a cell overnight until the effects wear off isn’t the solution.
Speaking at the debate, staged by Kettering-based charity, Solve-It, he said: “When I was a bobby on the beat you had a few options, one of which was to lock them up when actually the best place was somewhere else. We know now that a cell is not an appropriate place for someone suffering a psychotic crisis.
“It’s a myth that policing is all about crime. It’s a big slice of what we do, but it’s not all we do. Very often our officers are responding to medical crises and we are seeing an increase in bizarre behaviour, out of the norm for the person, and we have to assume legal highs are part of the reason for that.
“We are facing a public health crisis and the police have a role to play in the solution, but we should not be leading it.”
The debate, held at the Masque Theatre in Barton Seagrave, heard from a panel of experts including Tracy Carr from Public Health England, NHS commissioning manager for Children and Young People in Northamptonshire David Loyd-Hearn and barrister Rudi Fortson QC.
More than 100 people attended to hear about the implications of the forthcoming bill looking at New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and the impact it would have. The bill would introduce a widespread ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of legal highs.
The substances have been heavily linked to a rising number of deaths in the UK and are becoming a major problem in prisons up and down the country.
A survey of 300 people in Northamptonshire has revealed that almost a quarter (24 per cent) had taken a legal high while three in four (74 per cent) knew about them.
Kevin Shapland, chairman of trustees at Solve It, said: “The future of the legal highs market is still very uncertain. Education is a key part of what we do as a charity and it was good to see so many young people in the audience.
“The message from them was clear – we need to continue to spread the word about these substances and ensure people understand the potential dangers of their use.
Solve It educates young people, parents and carers about the dangers of volatile substances and new psychoactive substances – providing them with the skills and understanding to make a safe choice.
To find out more, visit: solveitonline.co.uk or call and speak to a member of the Solve It team on: 01536 414690.
Pictured above – CRISIS LOOMING: Chief Constable Simon Edens joined the debate and warned of increased ‘bizarre behaviour’.