The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) is to release a report this week calling for more to be done to combat the drugs, known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), while also calling for a “treatment tax” on alcohol.
Legal highs were linked to 97 deaths in 2012 and hospital admissions rose by 56 per cent between 2009-12, according to new CSJ data. The think-tank estimates that on current trends deaths related to legal highs could be higher than heroin by 2016 – at around 400 deaths a year.
Drugs such as meow meow and Benzo Fury have been outlawed by the Government but other substances, such as alpha-methyltryptamine (AMT) are still legal and new drugs flood the market quicker than they can be banned.
CSJ is asking police to adopt a similar policy to one used in Ireland, to close so-called “head-shops” which sell NPS, of which they estimate there are around 250 in the UK.
And the report will brand the Government’s prevention programme FRANK “shamefully inadequate”.
Meanwhile, the think-tank calls for a “treatment tax” to be added to off-licence alcohol sales to fund rehabilitation for people with drug and alcohol addictions, with a penny per unit levy funding recovery services costing £1.1bn in the next five years.
“Addiction rips into families, makes communities less safe and entrenches poverty,” said CSJ director Christian Guy.
“For years full recovery has been the preserve of the wealthy – closed off to the poorest people and to those with problems who need to rely on a public system. We want to break this injustice wide open.”
The Ambitious for Recovery report says 300,000 people in England are addicted to opiates or crack, 1.6 million are dependent on alcohol and one in seven children under the age of one live with a substance-abusing parent.
Every year drugs cost society around £15bn and alcohol £21bn.