Legal Highs Are No Laughing Matter Say Summer Festival Organisers!

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Legal highs on an all-time low? When the balloon goes up, it’s no laughing matter...
On 1st April, Lincoln became the UK’s first city to impose a complete ban on legal highs being used anywhere in public. Just one week later, five legal highs were banned by government drug advisers for 12 months to assess the harm posed. Less than one month on comes the news that a 24 hour campaign to highlight the dangers of taking substances, such as nitrous oxide – known as ‘laughing gas’ - is to take place online, once again, this year. Blacking out websites... As the summer festival season gets underway, more than 40 venues, including Glastonbury, the Isle of Wight, Bestival, T in the Park, Lovebox and Parklife will be repeating last year’s campaign action by blacking out their websites for 24 hours on Monday 4th May. Instead, the homepage of each festival site will show an infographic of “key statistics, facts and advice on legal highs.” The reality of legal highs today have long evolved from the chilled-out, plant-based ‘herbal’ alternatives to illegal drugs of summer festivals past. Ever since 'designer drugs' of the 1980s club scene, an explosion of new and unregulated, psychoactive compounds coming under the umbrella term of ‘legal highs’ have become commonly available - and posing risks even more lethal than traditional, illegal drugs. Designed to mimic the effects of ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamines, a high proportion are synthesized in China, India and across south-east Asia. Alarming rise in deaths... As a result of the new psychoactive substances, an alarming rise in the number of deaths began to be reported by The National Programme on Substance Abuse. Whilst there was 10 deaths recorded in the UK in 2009, the figure had jumped by more than fourfold to 42 deaths one year later and up by more than half again to 68 in 2012. Over 100 new and unpredictable synthetic substances were recorded in 2014 by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). As a result, the number of deaths linked to the use of legal highs has escalated eightfold in three years, according to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ). The same explosive pattern nationwide could be typically seen in microcosm, in Lincoln. The number of incidents involving legal highs in the city catapulted from seven to 820 between 2010 and 2014. Of course the term ‘legal highs’ is not strictly true! An estimated eighty-eight per cent of the legal highs are actually controlled and banned. The problem is the unstoppable influx of lethal new synthetic drugs, which are temporarily legal until the law catches up. Aluminium canisters... Highlighted recently has been the rising popularity and widespread use of nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” among young clubbers and festival party goers, which continues to cause real health fears. Particularly popular among the younger crowd, more than one in fourteen of those aged 16-24 used nitrous oxide over a 12 month period, according to the Home Office with 17 deaths recorded between 2006 and 2012. According to the Association of Independent Festivals, the deadly risks of legal highs were a “great concern to anyone involved in staging music festivals.” However, it seemed that a ‘blind eye’ had been turned to nitrous oxide taking and the Home Office has asked summer festival organisers to ban the use of the substance, along with the introduction of a “no legal highs” policy as a condition of entry to a festival site. Veteran organisers, Glastonbury Festival have already declared that they will be banning nitrous oxide from their site this year. It now seems likely that many other festivals will also be keeping a beady eye out for little aluminium canisters and funny looking balloons...

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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