The mother of a student who died from taking the legal high drug GBL tells Channel 4 News that reclassifying it as a class C drug is "a joke".
Maryon Stewart, who's daughter Hester died after taking the legal drug, said government plans to ban so-called legal high substances by the end of the year was "a start" but the classification system for drugs needed revisiting.
She told Channel 4 News: "I think if you look at cannabis, it's a class B drug. Making [GBL] a class C drug is actually a joke. I think it should definitely be a class A drug, especially when combined with alcohol it actually kills people."
GBL is used by clubbers which when it is consumed turns into a banned drug GHB in your stomach known as "liquid ecstasy". It is one of three drugs that offer so called legal highs are to be banned by the end of the year.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced that GBL and BZP along with the cannabis substitute Spice are to be outlawed, describing them as an "emerging threat". The Home Office says some of the substances contain dangerous industrial fluids.
GBL - gamma-butyrolactone - will be placed in Class C, meaning users could be punished with a two-year jail term and dealers up to 14 years. Spice, which will be placed in Class B, is made using synthetic chemicals and herbs and sold in so-called "head shops". It has been linked to mood swings and paranoia.
The drugs are openly sold on the internet and the decision has been welcomed by anti drugs campaigners. But critics claim that other substances will be developed to get around the new rules.
Ms Stewart said: "I think there is a general lack of awareness and I don't even know if Hester knew what GBL was. She was studying molecular medicine, she was a student mentor, she took the subject very seriously and I am certain that she wouldn't have done anything to compromise her life that she enjoyed so much.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. I heard Dr John Murray, the toxicologist from St George's say that very often some of the substances in these legal highs are more dangerous than the drugs we know about like heroine.
"It is the worry that young people don't understand, that they think it's legal or it's natural, that it's going to be safe and it certainly is anything but that especially when combined with alcohol.
"I am certain if Hester had known the dangers of GBL, especially when combined with alcohol, that she would never have taken it. She wouldn't for a minute have wanted to compromise her life.
"If the government had taken it more seriously last March when the first report came out from the European committee on the misuse of drugs saying that GBL plus alcohol kills, that my daughter would very likely still be alive.
"It is absolutely crazy that the people who are selling it don't know what is in it and the people who are taking it don't know what they are taking."
As part of the government's commitment to tackle the emerging threat of so called legal highs, a new information campaign to educate young people on the dangers of a range of these substances will also be announced today. The campaign, which will launch during the traditional student Freshers week in September, will highlight their dangers, particularly when they are mixed with alcohol.
August 25, 2009
Channel 4 News
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