National and Local politics from a Liberal Democrat from Gillingham, Kent
Friday, 25 October 2013
Tracey Crouch MP on Legal highs
In Today's Medway Messenger local MP Tracey Crouch has written her column on the dangers of Legal Highs and their availability.
Sometimes we talk about things in Westminster from a theoretical high level basis which we think might be right but until something happens in your backyard or you meet someone affected the relevance of the chit chat becomes real.
This has happened on two occasions recently with the issue of legal highs. One was informative, the other tragic.
I have spoken in Parliament several times on the dangers of legal highs. Very early on in my time in the Commons I sat on a Committee that banned a particular legal high that had become incredibly popular but had caused some extremely dangerous adverse affects in those who had consumed it. More recently measures were proposed within a Bill to look at how Government deals with the thorny issue of legal highs and in response the Home Office started a review.
However two events have made me recognise that this is not just another debate on the use of drugs, this is about how we can protect our youngsters from taking something that they think is harmless because it is deemed ‘legal’.
I met a young girl recently who had taken legal highs. It made her unwell and distracted. But beyond the health consequences what shocked me most was how easy it was for her to purchase them, despite being under age. She has stopped taking them now and is well on the road to recovery.
Then sadly the news broke this week that a young man, suspected of purchasing a legal high in a shop in Chatham, died of a heart attack. There is an ongoing investigation into the precise cause of his death but the ready availability of legal highs, despite their labelling of not fit for human consumption, is a worrying trend.
Government must publish its review into these highs soon and should look to America, which has banned the "analogue chemical formation" of these drugs for the solution. How many more parents must suffer because something deemed legal is actually rather deadly?
It raises some interesting points and questions. Legal highs, like alcohol do pose an interesting dilemma. Even though they are deemed legal the amount of research into the possible damage it can do the human body over the long term.
As Tracey has stated there are cases where they have caused illness, withdrawals and even death though until the Coroner's report is out on the lad from Chatham I'd shy away from linking the two.
Many would argue that it is up to the individual who takes them, and to an extent I do agree. After all if you drink too much beer (not at today's prices) you will damage you liver and incur a large amount of health issues - yet these dangers are well publicised. Smoking too. As long as you're not hurting anyone when you take it or breaking any laws, what is the harm?
However not as much is known about "Legal Highs" and their effect. Before making them legal perhaps some more serious stringent tests should be done. After all any chemical compound that enters the body can have an unknown amount of side-effects and the more complicated it is the more dangerous it can be. The human body is a highly balanced chemical equation and everything has a running order. When you mess with it bad stuff happens.
I'd be interested to see how the young lady managed to purchase them whilst under age. Now with Challenge 25 everywhere you should be looking at the suppliers and clamping down on this sort of thing rather than the chemical itself?
The other question is the role of Government in deciding what it is good for the people or not. Many would argue that this is an extension of the Nanny state deciding what is good for us and we should be allowed to think for ourselves. Although, normally I would agree with that I would also argue that the role of Government is to also protect its citizens and ask the questions (and debate) that a 22 year old out on the lash would not. Indeed asking questions as to whether these substances are good for us over the long term or their supply is a being policed properly and how readily they are available to people. Is this not what an elected body should be looking at and encouraging debate on these subjects?
Ultimately if the Government want to stop people having them so readily they should do what they have done with alcohol and cigarettes and just put a levy on them!