According to a new poll the majority of people think that legalising drugs would make them safer.
This goes against David Cameron’s refusal to set up a Royal Commission to review current drug laws earlier this week.
The poll by Edinburgh drugs advisory service Crew2000 shows over 75% of people think that the illegality of drugs makes them more dangerous.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Winstock, founder and director of Global Drug Survey, said that the main dangers are caused by current legislation preventing the government from providing truthful information:
“Because drugs are illegal people are forced to engage with a criminal underworld which in itself can be a bit dangerous.
“The biggest issue about drugs being illegal is it can be difficult for people to know exactly what they’re taking. If people knew this, in terms of substance, purity and dose, some people would choose to use that drug more carefully.”
Emma Crawshaw, from Crew2000, said that although there has been a decline in the numbers of those using drugs in Edinburgh, “people who do use are doing so in a more problematic way.” She said that cannabis and alcohol remained the biggest problem but also pointed to the fact that the rise in availability of ‘legal highs’ was creating a further problem for controlling drugs:
“The biggest risk is that as supply and production is unregulated, and as packaging may well state ‘not for human consumption’ people cannot be sure of what they are actually purchasing. As so many substances are new, it is very difficult to assess what the long term health effects may be.”
Over 40 new psychoactive substances were identified on the market last year and experts predict that a further 60 new substances will be identified by the end of the year. Ms Crawshaw said the problem with new substances is people don’t know what they’re buying:
“Many people now purchase these substances over the internet or ‘head shops’, thinking that they are indeed ‘legal highs’ however, they may well contain banned substances i.e controlled drugs or substances that are under the new temporary class banning orders brought in to ban/control new substances while tests are conducted on them to investigate health risks. Potency may be very variable and quality may well be poor.”
A spokesperson for Apothecary, a local business that sells psychoactive substances and drug paraphernalia, said that the government’s recent decision to keep current drug legislation was a mistake:
“I think that the law should be changed. I think that the government should spend some money on developing safer, less neurotoxic versions of drugs such as MDMA and sell them in a controlled way so that people know what they are getting. It shouldn’t really be up to the government what people can take.”
However, Dr Winstock claims that the term ‘legal high’ is meaningless, giving the example of mephedrone, or ‘meaow-meaow’, which started life as a ‘legal high’ but quickly became illegal. He also said:
“There’s lots of things that are classed as ‘legal highs’ which don’t get you high.”
“I think there is a legal high market for two reasons: one is the declining purity of traditionally available drugs, predominantly cocaine and MDMA; and the second is globalisation of media and markets.”
He also says that ‘legal highs’ are attractive because they can be delivered in the post.
“Instead of using dealers, you can get drugs delivered by mail and if you’re a drug manufacturer and distributer, that makes life much easier.”