In 2013 the UK was named the addiction capital of Europe, with some of the highest rates of drug misuse costing the taxpayer around £15bn each year for treatment.
Drink and Drugs
The UK also has the highest rate of lifetime-use of amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy. Among women, alcohol dependence is higher in Britain than anywhere else in Europe.
The think tank said one in 12 young people in the UK admitted to having taken legal highs which is the highest figure in Europe.
Legal highs are continuing to flood into the continent with 101 new substances reported last year (2014), a rise of 25 per cent on the previous year (2013).
According to the report of the EU’S annual review of the drugs problem, more than 450 legal highs are now being monitoring across Europe.
The UK has more than 250 shops, as well as dozens of legal highs websites, helping to make Britain the legal-high addiction capital of Europe.
Many of these shops have been closed down by the police due to complaints and concerns about anti-social behaviour arising from the sale of legal highs on the premises.
What are legal highs?
Just because they are called Legal Highs it doesn’t make them legal in fact Legal highs’ are actually illegal and contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs.
Many people are unaware of the fact that Possessing or supplying (includes giving to a friend) a ‘legal high’ that contains a banned drug is an offence.
They are sold in a variety of forms such as powder, pills, liquids, capsules, perforated tabs and smoking mixtures.
The effects of legal highs
The main effects of almost all ‘psychoactive’ drugs, including ‘legal highs’, can be described using three main categories:
- stimulants act like amphetamines (‘speed’), cocaine, or ecstasy
- downers’ or sedatives act similarly to cannabis, benzodiazepines (drugs like diazepam or Valium)
- psychedelics or hallucinogens act like LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine and methoxetamine.
Although drugs in these categories can have similar effects they all have different strengths so the effects on individuals will be different. Just because you know someone who has taken legal highs and feels great doesn’t mean that this is the same for everyone as you don’t know what’s in a ‘legal high’ that you’ve bought, or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends.
How we can help stop the UK from being the addiction capital of Europe
Most legal highs have not been tested for human consumption so reactions are unpredictable. Risks include seizures, mental health issues, brain damage and heart problems, and the danger can increase if the drug is mixed with alcohol or other substances.
The only way we can stop the UK from being the addiction capital of Europe is to make legal highs and other drugs more difficult to get hold of, and by making sure students receive proper information about the dangers of drugs as well as legal highs.
New resources have been produced to support the awareness initiative and are available for anyone who works with students aged 18 to 24. The aim is to place them in student unions and bars or other places where young people hang out.
For those who are already addicted to drugs, making sure that proper help is available for each individual and that rehab centres and counselling is affordable and accessible to all even those who have a lower income or no income at all.
You can find the original BBC article here.