The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has published its annual report, uncovering that last year the UK’s average mortality rate from overdose was 38.3 per million population – a number that is more than double that of the rest of the continent.
The EU drugs agency also highlighted that the number of legal highs available within Europe is increasing, with a total of 651 known websites selling 350 substances. This rise in online distribution has only increased availability to both dealers and consumers.
There was a reported 81 new ‘legal high’ substances reported for the first time in 2013, rising from 73 the previous year. Such substances are not currently controlled by international law and are commonly mislabelled as research chemicals or plant food. While it is thought that the majority of these drugs are manufactured in India or China, a number of secret laboratories are now producing the drugs in Europe.
The Home Office launched a review of legal highs last year, with the view of identifying how UK drug laws can be improved. The report is due to be published soon and will be welcomed by many. Options thought to be included are the expansion of legislation to ensure the police have better tailored powers.
Europe’s Early Warning System – a detection mechanism that is described as the “first line of defence against emerging drugs” – is struggling to keep up with the increasing rate that new drugs are emerging. There are also fears that deaths involving designer drugs are escaping detection.
Norman Baker, Crime Prevention minister commented to say:
“The Coalition Government is determined to clamp down on the reckless trade in what are somewhat inaccurately called ‘legal highs’, which have tragically claimed the lives of far too many young people in our country.”
He went on to say that many of these drugs are now controlled in the UK, thanks to generic legislation.
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