Published: 09:10, 15 July 2014 |
Updated: 10:23, 15 July 2014
A charity claims Britain is underestimating the scale of the problem of so-called "legal highs" as a crackdown continues in Kent.
CRI - which helps support and treat drug addicts - says it has seen a big increase in the number of people using the substances.
It follows a series of raids in Kent last week - thought to be the first of their kind in the country - to remove legal highs from our high streets.
Nearly 1,900 packets were found in 20 stores, which have been stopped from selling them by trading standards teams until the substances are tested.
CRI predicted the legal high situation "will only get worse" amid fears Britain is "only scratching the surface" and underestimating the "serious public health challenge" posed "legal high" misuse.
Chief executive David Biddle said: "We believe that the common term of 'legal high' is incredibly misleading; legal does not equate to safe, and some substances which were legal have now been classified.
"Some of these substances are highly potent and can be very risky, possibly up to 10,000 times stronger than the street drugs they emulate, with tiny amounts able to trigger extreme psychoactive responses.
"It is clear that there is still work to be done to research, treat, understand and describe these substances in a way that fully appreciates their scale and effects.
"It is very important that good quality, easily accessible information is made available to inform and educate."
Nearly 1,900 "legal highs" were discovered in shops allegedly selling the substances in Kent last week.
Officers from Kent County Council's trading standards and police targeted 20 shops as part of their efforts to crack down on the items.
The visits resulted in 424 sample packets of the controversial substances being taken away for testing.
Depending on the results, the authorities will be issuing appropriate action, which is still yet to be decided.
The action followed a letter sent recently by the consumer protection department to all stores suspected of selling the legal drugs, with the potential to kill.
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