Johnson launches ‘legal highs’ warning

By Liz Stephens

The home secretary has today launched a new campaign warning of the dangers of so-called ‘legal high’ drugs.

The campaign, which will include advertising in clubs, on student websites and in music magazines such as MixMag, will seek to highlight the dangers of the substances, which have claimed the lives of at least four people in the last 18 months.

Speaking today about the launch of the campaign, Alan Johnson said: “There is sometimes a misconception that because a substance is legal it is safe to consume, that is not the case, they are dangerous chemicals.

“Through this campaign we want to educate young people who might be tempted to experiment with ‘legal highs’ that they don’t know what they are taking and these substance can have devastating effects, particularly when mixed with alcohol.”

Drugs such as the chemical solvent GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), synthetic cannabinoids (man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as ‘Spice’) and BZP (a synthetic stimulant) have seen soaring popularity among students and clubbers in recent years.

These so-called ‘legal high’ drugs are soon to become illegal and will be reclassified as class C drugs by the end of the year.

The ban comes after recommendations from the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which found the substances to have unpredictable effects on health, earlier this month.

However, the mother of a 21-year-old woman who died after taking GBL has criticised the campaign for being “wholly inadequate”.

Maryon Stewart said her daughter Hester “would still be with us” if tougher legislation was brought in.

“I don’t feel that the campaign is strong enough. It is too short and too narrow and I don’t think it is targeting enough people,” she said.

Meanwhile drug reform activists have derided the decision to ban the drugs as further evidence of government ineptitude.

Steve Rolles of Transform told “This is a myopic, short-term, knee-jerk reaction.

“These things are undoubtedly harmful, but it would be better to regulate them.”

A further 24 anabolic steroids – testosterone-like products often used by sports people and increasingly being used by the general public to enhance physique and strength – and two growth promoters will also be added to the list of steroids already controlled as class C drugs.