They’re ‘legal’, lethal and killing as we speak

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Two more casualties of the war on drugs remain stretched out in a Lancashire hospital at time of writing; on a ward rather than the morgue, as luck would have it.

Real luck.

Since 2009 deaths from the use of ‘legal highs’ similar to those which hospitalised our pair have soared by more than 1,000 per cent, and last month it was revealed that some 169 people – mostly young men – were killed in 2013 alone.

A rate which puts such substances right up there with the big boys. Heroin is thought to account for around 700 deaths a year, cocaine and street methadone 300 or so, but then a precipitous fall to Ecstasy, with 30 deaths, there or thereabouts, expected each year.

Cannabis, BTW, is non-lethal – despite what Gordon Brown, then PM, told a disbelieving world circa 2008. Something those youths, hospitalised by popular cannabis-substitute Spice, might find amusing on their road to (hopefully) recovery.

Little wonder that in March one of the UK’s leading drug experts branded legal highs a greater threat than the illegals they ape.

Yaina Samuels, founder and director of drugs education body Nu Hi Training, said: “We need to be even more worried because we don’t know what’s in the drugs. We don’t know what’s in each packet that comes along, we don’t know the strength of it, we don’t know the chemicals in there and we don’t know the lasting effects.”

Clearly, then, a human tragedy is unfolding in real-time, with the government’s response – basically an eternal game of Whack-A-Mole, banning the substances as they come along, invariably several steps behind manufacturers who simply switch one or two compounds used in the process to create wholly new ‘brands’.

Obviously – and I do not use that word advisedly, I use it because it is obvious – our ongoing war on drugs is largely to blame.

And it is for this reason that the prevarication and lollygagging of our political class over how to beat the infinite-headed hydra of legal highs is handled so forgivingly by our media.

Any serious attempt to address the catastrophe would, you see, invariably come straight round to scrutiny of their unwinnable war on drugs, and neither a moralising press nor parties chasing elderly, misinformed, fearful votes is in any hurry for that to happen.