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UK Government announces summit to tackle problem drugs

The UK Government has announced a summit of drug experts, police and others to discuss the issue of legal highs, amid concerns about the safety of the substances and problems with legislation, reports the BBC.

Legal highs have been in the media spotlight for several years, with a steady stream of tragic stories concerning their use.

The drugs, known as 'new psychoactive substances' are technically 'legal' because they have novel chemical compounds that allow them to fall outside of the UK's current drug laws.

The substances mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis but, as they are not illegal, are widely available online and in UK shops, albeit they are marked 'not for human consumption'.

The Government has so far imposed bans on 250 'legal highs'; however, the laboratories where they are produced, mostly in East Asia, are capable of bringing new products to market at a rate of one or more per week, meaning that Government is often left behind.

Sadly it has often taken a tragedy in order to propel one substance into the public domain, for it to then be banned.

There were 68 deaths linked to the ingestion of an illegal high in 2012, a figure which has climbed by almost 700% since 2009.

"[Legal highs are] a growing problem. Some of these substances are very dangerous and can and do lead to deaths," said Home Office minister Norman Baker.

"The way they're marketed and presented suggests to people that they are legal and safe. But sometimes they are not legal and they are certainly not safe," he added.

Mr Baker is meeting police chiefs and drugs experts today to discuss the problem. One solution is to follow the Irish example, introducing a law which blanket bans all new substances until they are approved by Government.