The Problems Caused by Legal Highs Are the "Tip of the Iceberg"

Jun 25, 2014, 15:24 ET from Angelus Foundation

LONDON, June 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --

A conference of legal high practitioners, today, heard the problems encountered so far were the "tip of the iceberg." The conference held jointly between legal highs awareness charity, Angelus, and Northamptonshire based charity, Solve It, was also addressed by the Drugs Minister, Norman Baker, by pre-recorded message.

Mr Baker thanked the Angelus Foundation for its work in raising awareness of the harms of these substances, adding, "You have made a real difference." On issue of NPS he said, "There are clear challenges and evidence gaps that currently exist in this area especially in terms of prevalence and harms…by us all pulling in the right direction, we can all have a real impact on this issue." The review on NPS controls carried out by the Home Office is expected next

With an unprecedented increase in the use of New Psychoactive Substances, the UK is only seeing the "tip of the iceberg" of the potential health issues and detrimental impact on society. Last year, a new drug was discovered on average every six days (European Drug Monitoring Centre figures). The untested drugs can be bought very easily from hundreds of High Street headshops and online and have caused countless deaths and hospitalisations.

This national interactive conference provided speakers and delegates with an opportunity to explore methods for developing collaborative responses to the issues, with the goal of making the most effective use of public funds and harnessing each others' strengths.

The founder of Angelus, Maryon Stewart, said, "We have known about these new substances for a few years now but not enough has been done to get a proper grip on the level of harm and how to best prevent young people from taking them. The risks to them are as high as ever and the rate of new substances is still greater than ever. This conference will certainly help stakeholders work toward a common goal."

Kevin Shapland, Chair of Trustees for Solve It, said, "It is obvious to all practitioners organisations such as health, trading standards, police and prisons that the situation with legal highs is getting out of control. It urgently requires some innovative thinking: as the traditional responses to other drugs will not always work. We will be delivering a comprehensive report, based on the outcomes from today's conference, to the top of Government to show what steps are needed in the short medium and long term to save the lives of young people from these dangerous substances."

Notes to editors:

1) Maryon Stewart lost her daughter to GBL and established the Angelus Foundation. It is the only drugs charity dedicated to combating legal highs and club drugs and has previously launched a national campaign including the website There is also a site for families

2) Solve It was first established in 1989 to provide a service dedicated to the prevention of Volatile Substance Abuse (VSA), the original 'legal highs'.  It now provides a service to young people, adults, professionals and organisations that promote understanding, awareness and education of the consequences of 'legal highs', including volatile substances and new psychoactive substances.

The charity works towards the prevention of related deaths, illness, accidents, crime and the impact such abuse has on the family and community, enabling a safer and healthier environment.    

3) The national conference brought together delegates from a range of disciplines in order to discuss and share insights from the various approaches that are being adopted to tackle the issues raised by 'legal highs'. They discussed:

What do we actually know about the threats from New Psychoactive Substances?

Where are the current gaps in research?

What would prove most useful to practitioners in helping to reduce harm?

Where available resources are best directed?

What additional or advanced services or initiatives would derive the most value?

Who should deliver?

How can we improve our collaborative response?

SOURCE Angelus Foundation