MSPs debate 'new psychoactive substances' or 'legal highs'

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Community Safety and Legal Affairs Minister Roseanna Cunningham outlined the measures being taken to tackle the challenge posed by new psychoactive substances in Scotland, during a debate on the issue on 6 February 2014.

The "new psychoactive substances" (NPS) are commonly known as "legal highs" which are synthetic drugs that can be bought online and in some shops.

Ms Cunningham warned against use of the term "legal highs" as it sent the wrong message as it was best to "avoid any suggestion that the word 'legal' means safe".

She also warned of the risk of harm or even death from taking NPS.

The minister highlighted the progress made by the Scottish government with the publication of the Road to Recovery which underpinned a "holistic and person centred approach" to the issue.

Ms Cunningham stressed "the need for us all to work together to address the challenges that changing drug trends present to Scotland.

"It is clear that the health implications of NPS can be just as serious as controlled drugs, and we must challenge the myth that legal equals safe."

The government are running Facebook adverts directing people to the Know the Score drugs information and support website.

The minister cautioned against complacency and the need to be mindful of new drugs and the challenges they brought.

Official figures for 2012 show five drug-related deaths in Scotland were attributed solely to new psychoactive substances, while the presence of such drugs were evident in a further 47 cases.

The Scottish government has said although reclassification of drugs is reserved to the UK government, it had been working with the Home Office and Police Scotland to identify and tackle the supply of new psychoactive substances threatening public health.

More than 200 of the substances have been banned since the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in 2010.

Labour MSP Dr Elaine Murray said: "These legal drugs are just as dangerous physically and psychologically and the user doesn't know what else they might contain and they don't know the danger presented by those products.

"These are not benign legal substances.

"They are hardcore, dangerous physically and psychologically, and the message has to go out and young people who are tempted to take them need to understand the dangers that they may be encountering in doing so."

You can view part two of the debate here: Psychoactive Substances in Scotland debate 2

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