News item

Cumbria shops issued with legal highs warning

Cumbria Trading Standards and Cumbria Police are joining forces to crack down on so-called legal highs being supplied in Cumbria.  

The use of novel psychoactive substances or ‘legal highs’ can have devastating consequences for individuals and their families, yet many are sold in shops on our high streets or over the internet. Unfortunately the law does not provide a simple way to tackle the growing phenomenon of ‘legal highs’, but Trading Standards and the Police are working together to share intelligence, confront local businesses and raise awareness of the risks of legal highs. 

Officers are hand delivering warning notices to all businesses they believe to be selling 'legal highs', reminding businesses of their legal obligation to ensure that products they sell are safe and giving them the opportunity to voluntarily surrender the dangerous substances. This action is being taken after concerns have been raised about the supply of 'legal highs' to young people in our communities and the increasing popularity of these substances at summer music festivals. 

The people who make and sell legal highs try to get around the law by labelling them as research chemicals, bath salts or pond cleaner and they are often marked 'not for human consumption'. Where Trading Standards has evidence that the products have been misdescribed or mislabelled they have power to take action under consumer protection and product safety legislation.

Angela Jones, Trading Standards Manager said "Businesses will be reminded that if they supply products that are unsafe or misdescribed they could face both criminal and civil enforcement action. 

“The fact that a substance is sold as “legal” does not mean it is safe and the risks of taking a legal high increases if combined with alcohol or with another psychoactive drug.  All businesses have a duty of care to ensure the products they sell are safe and we will do all we can to protect young people from these dangerous substances, by working alongside police and other agencies.”

Superintendent Mark Pannone, South Cumbria Territorial Policing Area said “Anyone who uses so called legal highs is taking considerable risks. These substances are typically untested and unregulated chemical compounds that have led to deaths. The main concern is that no-one knows what they are taking or what effects they will have. If people require hospital attention, medical staff are often unable to identify the substances taken which can prevent effective treatment. Legal highs need to be considered as dangerous drugs. Also, contrary to popular belief, many of the substances being sold as legal highs are actually drugs covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. Possession can lead to prosecution and a criminal record. In summary, taking legal highs is simply not worth the risk.”

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, Cumbria County Council’s Acting Director of Public Health, said: “It’s important that people realise the risks of taking drugs. You never know exactly what you're taking or how potent it is.

“Most importantly drugs should not be mixed with other drugs or alcohol, as the results can be very unpredictable. 

“So-called legal highs have been known to cause panic attacks, hallucinations and delusion which can be very frightening and put users at risk of harm.

“If you or someone else thinks they are having a serious negative reaction soon after taking a drug, seek help immediately, call 999, contact a medic or go straight to the accident and emergency department of your nearest hospital.”

Anyone who believes someone is selling legal highs can call Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06 or the Police on 101.

For free and confidential advice on drugs, the national Talk to Frank service can be contacted on 0800 77 66 00

DATE: 4 July 2013