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Services 'not equipped' to cope with rise of legal highs

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Health services are buckling under the pressure caused by new legal highs and the increasing use of club drugs, leading doctors have suggested.

Every week a new legal high, also known as a novel psychoactive substance (NPS), is introduced in Europe, experts said.

Health services are “not equipped” to deal with the rise, according to a report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Services are also under strain because of the large numbers of people who use club drugs such as ketamine and mephedrone, they said.

Between 2011-12 and 2012-13 there was a 32 per cent increase in the number of people presenting for treatment for club drug problems, they said.

Co-author Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, a consultant addiction psychiatrist, said: “Our current drug services were designed to deal with the drugs and dangers of the last decade - such as heroin and crack - and while it is important that this work continues, services now need to widen their front door and adapt to address the serious harms that club drug and NPS users are experiencing.

“It is clear that the NPS and club drug market is rapidly evolving with increasing evidence of harm to users.

“The challenge to the UK’s existing drug services is now to keep pace with this growing problem, while continuing to meet the demands of more established substance misuse problems associated with alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine.”

Many people who have club drugs or legal high problems might be “reluctant” to access services which can help them because they see them as being primarily for heroin or crack users, the report says.

The authors suggested that drug services should put the needs of club drug and NPS users on “equal footing” with alcohol and opiate treatment.

They also called for more training for frontline healthcare staff.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • David Solomon

    Working in drug services this is problem often ignored due to a lack of knowledge or services "saving money" to avoid further training for nurses, drug workers, doctors and other health related professionals. The information is available but not completely out there in services.

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