Legal highs ‘on the rise’

A selection of legal highs
A selection of legal highs

The use of ‘legal highs’ in the East Riding is on the rise but officials say the problem is not serious enough to introduce bans in certain areas.

A recent report by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council set out to establish illicit drug use throughout the county, particularly the growth of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), or ‘legal highs’, and how the problem could be tackled.

But recommendations from the authority fell short in calling for a complete ban in certain areas because there was “no such evidence that there was a particular problem in the East Riding, and therefore there were no plans at present to introduce a public protection order.

The subcommittee’s summary of their report also looked at the “growth in the use of” Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs).

The report’s summary read: “Developing performance information with novel psychoactive substances was challenging.

“Both NPS and IPEDs were a relatively new challenge for the control and treatment of drug problem and represented a real, but difficult to quantify, threat to public health.”

Although figures relating to the cost to treatment services dealing with legal high users were not available, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council estimated a total of £25,728.92 had been spent on “the burden of injecting equipment for steroid users”.

“It was difficult to disaggregate the costs of IPEDs and NPS from other drugs as they were part of the overall burden on drug treatment services,” the summary continued.

The Council were unable to determine the true cost of legal high users because there are also “a significant number of people who took several different types of drugs or mixed drugs and alcohol.”

Other local authorities have already given police powers to enforce bans in certain public places such as town centres.

In April this year the UK’s first city-wide ban on people taking legal highs in public came in to force in Lincoln, in an effort to curb the area’s growing legal high problem.

But a “lack of evidence” in the East Riding means the Council has no plans to enforce a similar Public Protection Order to allow officers to take action on those caught with ‘legal highs’.

Also to blame for the murky picture, according to the report, was the shortcomings of “existing legislative and regulatory framework”, which “was not well adapted to these emerging and rapidly changing concerns”.

Subsequently officials recommended that the council acknowledge “there is a lack of evidence on effective ways in dealing with these problems” because they are “complex and emerging concerns”.

The Council recommended that Humberside Police be pressed for information amid further concerns that the “drug testing process was not effective in detecting these new drugs”.

The authority wants to hear from Humberside Police as to what steps the force is taking to tackle the rise of legal highs and IPEDs. The report added: “Considerable efforts were being made in the East Riding, through work between different departments of the council, partners, and commissioned drug treatment services, to adapt to these new concerns.”