Use of new psychoactive substances now an epidemic

20 December 2013

Home Affairs Committee publish report on new psychoactive substances and prescription drugs.


The Home Affairs Committee has highlighted their concern around the increase in deaths last year associated with new psychoactive substances and prescription drugs.

The Committee concluded that:

Psychoactive Substances

  • Chief Constables and other law enforcement agencies have failed to understand the impact of new psychoactive substances.
  • The  Government should introduce tailored and specific legislation to shift the evidential responsibility, of proving the safety and non-narcotic purpose of a substance, onto the seller.
  • Quick turn around mobile testing units should be utilised at festivals in order in order to facilitate the removal of potentially harmful or illegal substances from the site immediately.
  • More specific education on psychoactive substances should be given in school and colleges

Prescription Drugs

  • Medical practices should start anonymous data collection of those patients who are addicted to prescription drugs and how they are being supplied.
  • Medical Royal Colleges should establish a joint working group to examine whether local health teams are effectively communicating concerns around individuals visiting multiple practices to request specific drugs.
  • The  low number of prosecutions brought against doctors and pharmacists who assist in the diversion of prescription drugs in the UK is worrying.

Committee Chairman

Rt. Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Committee said:

“We are facing an epidemic of psychoactive substances in the UK with deaths increasing by 79% in the last year. New versions of these "legal highs" are being produced at the rate of at least one a week, yet it has taking the Government a year to produce five pages of guidance on the use of alternative legislation.

This slow response to the crisis may have led to more deaths. Those who sell these killer substances need to be held responsible. New laws should be enacted to put the onus on them. Especially at this time of year, young people need to take care about what substances they consume so their health and lives are not put at risk.

There are currently 1.5 million people addicted to prescription drugs in the UK. The abuse of these types of substances is taking place in the shadows and its extent is still un-quantified. Local GPs need to report their suspicious and collate information to illuminate this problem.

If we do not act the catastrophic consequences of tomorrow can be seen in the US today.”

Further information

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