UN Drugs Chief: Legal Highs are "A Threat to Public Health". Angelus says: "'Legal Highs' Are a Bigger Danger Than Horsemeat."

Mar 06, 2013, 17:16 ET from Angelus Foundation

LONDON, March 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

Following the UN's report this week on legal highs, the drugs charity, Angelus, has called for the Government to accept that the threat to public safety from legal highs is considerably greater than that of horsemeat. Both are being sold in the high street masquerading as other products, but the Government has only devoted resources to protecting the integrity of the food chain. Angelus has asserted that the country's children should be protected from the even greater threat resulting in loss of mental health, and even life, posed by easy access to legal highs.

Several companies have been compelled to withdraw supermarket products, which contained traces of horsemeat. The Government has response with great urgency despite no obvious threat to human health. This response contrasts markedly with Government "inactivity" in tackling the sale of highly dangerous legal highs which can result in psychosis, depression, severe paranoia, anxiety, difficulty breathing, heavy nose bleeds, damaged eye sight and even the loss of the use of the bladder.

The President of the International Narcotics Control Board, Raymond Yans said: "In recent years, there has been an unprecedented surge in the abuse of new psychoactive substances. Clear action must be taken now by governments to prevent and deal with the abuse of these so-called 'legal highs' which are already a threat to public health and pose a significant challenge to public health systems."

Last year, a new drug was discovered on average every six days (European Drug Monitoring Centre figures). These untested drugs can be bought very easily from hundreds of High Street headshops and online. Hospitalisations from legal highs have increased by 358 percent.

The founder of Angelus, Maryon Stewart, said: "The United Nations report shows the problem of new untested dangerous drugs is a huge threat to public health. This risk obviously exceeds any dangers from consuming horsemeat. Yet we see Government Ministers acting with greater urgency despite a consensus that there are negligible risks to human health. A recent report from New Zealand shows strong links between smoking synthetic cannabis and depression and suicidal thoughts. Legal highs present clear and overwhelming danger to our children now but the Government's response is characterised by inactivity."

"It takes no time at all for the Food Standards Agency to deploy the full force of the law against any meat supplier who has broken the rules. But there is no ambition to tackle the widespread sale and supply of dangerous drugs to young people. There is an overwhelming case, under consumer protection law for shutting any business which sells legal highs."

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 launched a national campaign in October including the website http://www.whynotfindout.org. There is also a site for families http://www.angelusfoundation.com.

2) The International Narcotics Control Board report launched on 5 March 2013 said: "New psychoactive substances, known as 'legal highs' and 'designer drugs', are a growing threat to public health, as seen by increased emergency room admissions and calls to poison centres, In July, Scotland's largest health board in Glasgow reported a 358% rise in the number of young people needing emergency treatment after taking legal highs. It many cases, patients only survived after "urgent specialist treatment".

3) The NZ National Poisons Centre has received an increasing number of calls associated with long-term use of synthetic cannabis products. Toxicologist Dr Leo Schep said neuropsychiatric effects following long-term use such as anxiety, aggression and psychosis had been noted for some time. "Recently we have also seen a newer trend emerge with patients experiencing ongoing paranoia linked with suicidal ideations."

SOURCE Angelus Foundation