LONDON: A British minister has sought action against scientists in India and China who are allegedly producing dangerous new medicines called “legal highs” to be sold on UK streets.
Norman Baker, a UK Home Office minister, said that scientists in India and China are creating new drugs on a “weekly basis” and the UK government needs to find new ways to deal with them.
“We’re in a race against the chemists of new substances being produced almost on a weekly basis in places like China and India,” Baker told the BBC.
“They then come in here and are inaccurately and unhelpfully called ‘legal highs’ – some of them are actually illegal. They are certainly not necessarily safe and the word legal implies that they are safe. And people are consuming them and last year I think it was 68 people who died, according to coroners reports, from the ingestion of these substances.
“My objective is to minimise the harm from these substances to the public at large,” Baker said.
The number of deaths from drugs known as “legal highs”, such as mephedrone, known as “Miaow Miaow”, reached the highest number ever recorded last year.
Ministers are consulting on ways to toughen regulation of the drugs.
“We’re dealing with a situation where there’s already a vast array of substances being sold on our streets, in our shops and that’s what we have to deal with. Many of these are actually quite dangerous,” Baker warned.
The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) said deaths linked with the psychoactive substances jumped from 29 in 2011 to 52 in 2012, an 80% rise.
Many of the so-called legal highs – which give the user euphoric sensations similar to the drug Ecstasy – have been made illegal by the Home Office but the law struggles to keep pace with a proliferation of different drug types.