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mushroomsJune 1 2016

There will be ongoing educational and treatment activities to prevent harmful drug use, including about the former ‘legal highs’, the Government has indicated.

Announcing that the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 has now come into force, the Home Office said: “Legislation alone is not the silver bullet, and alongside the Psychoactive Substances Act we continue to take action across education, prevention, treatment and recovery in order to reduce harmful drug use. This includes:

  • providing tools and information for those in the education sector to engage with young people to tackle the use of psychoactive substances
  • working with local areas to help them prevent and respond to the use of psychoactive substances
  • highlighting the risk of these substances to around 50 music festivals
  • publishing clinical guidelines to aid in the detection, assessment and management of users.”

There have been concerns about how the Act will be interpreted, with its “blanket ban on the sale, supply, importation and exportation of the dangerous drugs applying across the UK whenever they are intended for human consumption.” However, “a world-leading testing programme to determine whether a substance is capable of having a psychoactive effect will help provide evidence to support enforcement action.” In addition, there are concerns that the ban will lead to more drugs deaths.

Drugs excluded by the Act are:

  • Controlled Drugs (as defined by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971)
  • medicinal products
  • alcohol (ethanol) products not containing any psychoactive substance
  • nicotine and tobacco products
  • caffeine
  • any substance which is ordinarily consumed as food or drink and does not contain a prohibited ingredient

Health professionals are exempted from the Act if they are acting in the course of their profession.

Chief Scientist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Professor Jayne Lawrence has issued advice for the public, saying the drugs “are dangerous and potentially lethal. You don’t know what you are buying, or how strong they might be, meaning harm and overdose are much more likely, especially when these chemicals are injected or combined with alcohol or drugs. Their impact on individuals in terms of illness and addiction can be severe leading to poisoning, mental health problems, emergency hospital admissions and in some cases, death.

“Now they are outlawed, the spurious term ‘legal high’ will no longer give a badge of legitimacy to them or to those who sell them. Some individuals will continue to buy them regardless of the change in the law. What’s needed is better education and awareness around these chemicals combined with accessible treatment and recovery services in order to reduce their use and the harm they cause.”

Links:

Home Office announcement

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

RPS comment

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