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Deaths from 'legal highs' in UK could surpass those from heroin by 2016

A new report also proposes a ‘treatment tax’ on alcohol.

Image: drugs via shutterstock

A NEW REPORT has predicted that deaths in the UK from legal highs could surpass those of heroin within two years.

The report, released by UK think tank the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found a big increase in the number of people abusing legal highs. There was a 56% increase in use between 2009 and 2012.

It is forecasted that if this trend continues, the number of deaths from legal highs could surpass heroin by 2016. This would put the total number of fatalities at around 400.

Legal highs (also called new psychoactive substances) are frequently labelled as ‘Not Safe for Human Consumption’ as a means of circumventing the UK Medicines Act 1968. Legal highs are designed to produce similar affects to traditional illegal drugs such as MDMA, cocaine, amphetamine or heroin.

Some of these such as methadrone and benzofuran compounds (Benzo Fury) and have been outlawed, others like alpha-methyltryptamine (aMT) remain legal.

Released this week, the report identifies legislation introduced in Ireland as an effective means of tackling the problem.

Irish solution

In 2010, measures were introduced here in Ireland to ban the sales of legal highs. The Psychoactive Substance Bill gave gardaí the power to seek court orders to close head shops suspected of selling banned substances.

A suggestion made in the report was for the introduction of a ‘treatment tax’. This would involve a 1 pence levy per unit of alcohol that would go to providing treatment for individuals suffering from addiction.

If introduced, this tax would provide €1.3 billion over five years for recovery services in the UK.

Speaking about the findings, director of the CSJ Christian Guy said:

For years full recovery has been the preserve of the wealthy – closed off to the poorest people and to those with problems who need to rely on a public system. We want to break this injustice wide open.

In the study, it was found that 300,000 people in the UK are addicted to opiates and or crack in addition to 1.6 million who addicted to alcohol. One in seven children in the UK under the age of one were thought to live with a substance abusing parent.

Related: Poll: Would you be willing to pay a ‘treatment tax’ on alcohol?

Also: 18 teens started treatment for substance misuse this year

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