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UK decides to 'opt out' of EU laws on legal highs

The UK Government has announced that it will opt out of proposals put forward by the European Commission to curb the massive expansion in the popularity of so-called 'legal highs', because joining the EU scheme might hinder UK attempts to ban new drugs as they emerge onto the market.

Legal highs have never been far from the media spotlight in recent years, as governments around the world struggle to get to grips with a market that can now produce hundreds of new substances per year, avoiding existing legislation.

The substances are often similar in chemical structure to known, banned drugs, but escape being caught under existing drugs laws because they are essentially different.

As these substances are not prohibited by law, they can be bought on the high street in so-called 'head shops' as well as online, but can now also be found in places like petrol stations.

The media fervor surrounding them has been further driven by a spate of deaths from the use of such substances, known as 'psychoactive substances'. Often those adversely affected by legal highs are young adults, some with children, adding to the tragedy and calls for all such substances to be banned.

The Government insisted that opting out of the EU legal position did not diminish the UK's position against legal highs.

Home Office minister Norman Baker said in a statement: "The coalition government is conducting a review into new psychoactive substances, and alongside our programme of work, we are looking at a range of options including legislative ones to enable us to deal with the dangers many of these substances present even more speedily and effectively."