Thursday, October 07, 2010

Dopey Dealers

Just when I thought the press might have got fed up with them, legal highs raised their ugly heads again today. According a report on the radio, some drug users are turning to them in preference to the heavily cut cocaine which apparently dominates the street dealing these days. At risk of appearing cynical, this sounds like another attempt to demonise these legal highs - they must be evil if real drug users take them, mustn't they? A few months ago, they were being presented by the media as being some kind of new drugs epidemic, worse even than crack, apparently. All manner of sudden deaths amongst young people were being linked to them - in several cases inquests subsequently ruled them out as the cause of death, something the press weren't quite so quick to report. Now, don't misunderstand me - I hold no brief for those who make and sell legal highs, and I don't use them myself. Damn it, I'm someone who is so paranoid about the possible effects of drugs on my system that I agonise before taking an aspirin for a headache.

It's just that this whole furore has left me more than a little confused. Isn't the whole point of legal highs is that they are just that: legal? That, in itself, implies that they aren't considered harmful, doesn't it? However, my confusion has been increased by the fact that, according to many of the news reports, these things weren't actually being sold as legal highs. One was apparently being sold as plant food, another - linked with at least one sudden death - as bath salts. Now, I dare say that if I was to cook up some plant food I bought from my local garden centre and mainline it, I'd make myself pretty ill. Likewise, if I was to snort a couple of lines of Sainsbury's bath salts, I'd probably end up feeling more than slightly unwell. But, damn it, these things are still legally on sale on high streets up and down the country! Why doesn't the government ban them? So, with regard to these so-called legal highs, are they actually being sold as such, or are they simply being bought by people on the basis that they've been told that they can give you a high? I recall that when I was at school, there was a long-standing story that smoking rolled up fig leaves was just as good as a joint. Mind you, the main populariser of this theory, a vicar's son, did become a full on drug user. According to another unconfirmed rumour, he eventually attempted to cut off one of his hands whilst under the influence of LSD. Or maybe it was smoked cheese. I forget the details. Anyway, the long and the short of it is, I'm always highly mistrustful of these 'moral panics', which always seem to be long on outrage and short on facts.

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