Lawyer warns of new dangers of legal highs

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Lawyer warns of new dangers of legal highs

15th June 2010

Following the recent media storm over the deaths of two Scunthorpe teenagers wrongly linked to mephedrone, the UK government responded by banning the drug in April 2010 and categorising it as a Class B controlled substance. This was despite a growing consensus claiming legislation would prove useless as underground manufacturers would simply produce alternative drugs.

Sam Harmel, a legal expert in defective products said: "While drug classification is important, more pressing is the need to comprehensively educate and ensure that public information and drug education campaigns are ongoing and accessible."

Following the revelations last week that the same Chinese companies who were manufacturing mephedrone are now producing a raft of new chemical compounds that are not covered by British law, Sam, a partner with Fentons Solicitors LLP warned: "So-called legal highs are a real threat. "There is a perception, particularly among young people, that many of these drugs are relatively harmless. With users having scant knowledge as to the ingredients of the products they are buying, there is a significant chance that they could be ingesting dangerous industrial chemicals. The Government has a duty to educate people about these dangers."

Last week, an undercover news team posing as potential buyers managed to visit a Shanghai firm where they were offered 100kg of a supposedly new legal high said to mirror the effects of mephedrone. Company director, Mr Wu - claiming his company 'only operates within the law,' went on to state the consignment could be sent to the UK by courier and 'mislabelled' as a commonly known chemical to avoid any 'hold-ups' at UK customs.

Treated to a tour of the warren-like laboratories and witnessing uniformed workers toiling away amidst vats of bubbling chemicals, with Wu in true Wonka fashion proudly proclaiming: "There are thousands of these substances. There are new ones coming out all the time," the undercover team confirmed that Mr Wu's operation is currently producing drugs on an industrial scale.

Apparently a chemistry graduate from a prestigious Chinese university, Mr Wu was less forthcoming on the effects of his new compounds. "That's still being tested," he said. "We just make them." Illustrating a level of indifference perhaps unsurprising in such an unscrupulous market.

It is no secret that dozens of other Chinese companies are following suit in the full knowledge that the new generation of legal highs are far from safe. A representative from another such laboratory claiming to have a distributor in London supplying a network of dealers, openly admitted: "It's not good. It's too strong. It could make you feel very ill."

"The problem," says Sam, "is that we have no knowledge with regard to the effects these new chemical drugs can have on the body and brain. One early ascendant to the current crop of synthetic drugs was responsible for causing dozens of people to develop irreversible symptoms identical to Parkinson's Disease."

The Home Office has revealed plans to introduce a system of temporary bans to combat the emergence of legal high hybrids, vowing to close the loopholes that allow the drugs to proliferate. "Temporary bans will allow the Government to make substances illegal while they seek full scientific advice," said Sam.

Under similar legislation currently in place in Germany and the US, drugs can be banned on the presumption that they are dangerous rather than waiting for the results of a detailed scientific analysis.

"The law is largely ineffective - there are concerns that by categorising these substances together as legal highs, the significant differences in the effects and potential dangers might be hard for users to identify," said Sam who does not believe an outright ban would work - suggesting instead that education would be a more effective way of combating the new generation of drugs.

"Education on the risks of legal highs is key. Anyone wishing to use these drugs must have access to information detailing the inherent dangers associated with their ingestion."

How can Fentons Solicitors help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of defective products.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - Sky News