by Will Lumb
South Yorkshire topped the country for recorded instances of legal high abuse according to a statistics released today.
While the region had only 209 reported incidents in 2013-14, newly released figures show that number increased massively to 875 in 2015-16.
The news comes a fortnight before the government is to implement The Psychoactive Substances Act on May 26th.
The act is set to ban any production, supply, importation or exportation for human consumption of any form of legal highs.
However those who work closely with drug abuse victims are sceptical of the changes and how they will really impact on the problem.
John McNeil, a recovery worker at the NHS’ Substance Misuse Service on Sidney Street said: ““In reality the act lacks teeth. It means nothing to the individual who still won’t be prosecuted if they are caught in possession of a legal high.
“It’s going to make the drugs harder to get which will make them even more dangerous. People will start selling them like they sell illegals. It will push legal highs underground and therefore increase the risk to service users.”
Head of Communications for the charity Angelus Foundation, Jeremy Sare disagreed. He argued that the change in the law making the drugs illegal will not encourage people to increase legal high consumption.
He said: “The blanket ban’s main impact will see the scale of experiment decline. I think too much is made of the illegal status. The main reason people take them is for the pleasure aspects, not because they want to be seen as risk takers.”
Legal highs, also known as Novel Psychoactive Substances, are used like illegal drugs but at the moment they are not covered by current drug laws therefore making it legal to possess and use them.
In July 2013 there were 734 legal high products on the market. The use of synthetic cannabinoids, nitrous oxide and hallucinogens have proven to be extremely dangerous with many people ending up hospitalised.
As recently as February last year, headshops could openly sell the substances to the public. However that changed when a strategic group set up by the district’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings issued the shops with letters informing them that their products would be confiscated should they be found to be selling legal highs for unsafe purposes or human use.
The NHS invests a great deal of resources into educating people over the dangers of legal highs. In Sheffield alone there are three separate drop-in centres where people can seek help and rehabilitation.