Substances designed to mimic illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy are on sale in Norwich shops.
It is a grey area of the law which becomes a little clearer next month when several "legal highs" will be banned from sale. But there are still dozens more pills, potions and smokes which will remain on sale - and the possible health dangers are not fully known.
In Norwich the products are sold at Head in the Clouds on Pottergate and Ali Bongo on St John Maddermarket, but they will have to cut back on what they sell when a new law comes into effect on December 23. BZP, which is taken as an ecstasy substitute, GBL and synthetic chemicals imitating cannabis, such as "Spice", will be banned because of health concerns.
In April Hester Stewart, 21, a medical student at Sussex University, died after taking GBL along with alcohol on a night out. Earlier this month Gabrielle Price, 14, from West Sussex, died after reportedly taking mephedrone, which will remain legal. The issues will be investigated on BBC Inside Out tonight.
Martin Wyatt, owner of Head in the Clouds, told the Evening News: "Everything we sell is legal and safe."
He is angry about the impending ban. "It is strange that alcohol has such negative effects but it is widely accepted, but relaxing mild smokes are being cracked down on. They are being negative as a knee-jerk reaction."
Ali Bongo declined to comment. But a shop assistant told an undercover reporter for Inside Out that tablets containing BZP were "plant feeders but I think these are actually supposed to chill your plant out rather than pep it up".
Another product is called a stimulant, is sold as "bath salts" because "it's legal to buy them and legal to own them but we aren't qualified to advise you what to consume… But it is our biggest selling product. I would imagine half the population of Norwich take it".
A spokesman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said: "Many of these products are unlicensed medicines in the UK, which means their quality, safety and efficacy have not been tested.
"Under the Medicines Act, if a substance is deemed to be a medicine, its supply without a prescription or through a pharmacist is a criminal offence. The MHRA will take action against anyone illegally selling these products."
NHS Norfolk's lead commissioner for substance misuse, Jocelyn Pike said: "We would urge anyone looking to use any mood-altering substance to be extremely cautious, irrespective of their legal status. The long-term effects are unlikely to have been tested or proven and you cannot be sure what these substances contain."
Ü Inside Out is on BBC 1 tonight at 7.30pm.
November 30, 2009
Norwich Evening News
http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/cont...gory=news&itemid=NOED28 Nov 2009 10:30:17:203