NEW ways to tackle the sale of so-called legal highs are among measures being looked at as part of a crackdown on the substances.
Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill will be joined by representatives of Police Scotland, trading standards and the Home Office for a summit in Glasgow today, to discuss the growing use of the drugs.
MSPs pledged to get tough on legal highs earlier this year after figures showed a large rise in associated hospital admissions.
Earlier this month, a teenager from Renfrew became the latest person to die after taking the stimulant mephedrone.
Mr MacAskill said that ahead of summer music festivals, it was important to make clear that “legal does not equal safe”.
He said: “The longer-term health implications of taking these so-called legal highs are completely unknown. Put simply, users are acting as guinea pigs for untested and unregulated substances.
“Although classification of drugs is reserved to the UK government, we already work with the Home Office and police in Scotland to identify and tackle the supply of new psychoactive substances that threaten public health.
“This is a constantly evolving challenge due to the complex nature and the apparent ease with which legal highs can be produced and sold.”
Police issued a warning over MCAT and the powerful painkiller ketamine this month following the death of 19-year-old Helen Henderson at a party in Renfrew. Previously one of the growing number of legal highs, MCAT was made a class-B drug in 2010 after being linked to a number of deaths.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives earlier this year showed there had been 323 hospital admissions linked to legal highs since 2009, with cases doubling over the last two years.
However, only six health boards could supply numbers, so there is concern the real total could be much higher. Legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption, so are often marketed as bath salts, plant food or pond cleaner.
Detective Chief Inspector Garry Mitchell said: “The term ‘legal highs’ is misleading and can be inaccurate. The content of the substances vary and can contain controlled drugs and/or other substances which are harmful to the human body.”
He added: “Police Scotland, in conjunction with other partners, has developed a multi-agency approach in tackling new psychoactive substances (NPS) and has established partnerships with other national organisations in the drug-prevention and harm-reduction fields to ensure that there is an accurate and measured message being delivered to young people across Scotland around substance abuse, including that of NPS.”