The government says it’s committed to tackling the use of legal highs in Britain’s LGBT community, as part of a wider campaign by the Home Office to raise awareness about the impact of new psychoactive substances (NPS) or legal highs.
Teams from the Home Office Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) will be providing information about various substances to police at music festivals across the summer, including Glastonbury, Global Gathering and Creamfields – with the aim of detecting NPS.
The findings will then be sent to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
Last year 1,100 substances were analysed at six festivals.
The UK has the largest market for legal highs in the European Union, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
A total of 670,000 Britons aged 15-24 have experimented with the substances at least once, the UNODC says in its 2013 World Drug Report.
A study by the Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF) and the University of Central Lancashire in 2012 showed gay people in England and Wales were seven times more likely to take illegal drugs than the general population and that 1 in 5 have used poppers, commonly sold in gay clubs across the UK.
The liquid chemicals, which are made up of various alkyl nitrites, give the user a sudden rush that is over in a matter of minutes.
It is illegal to sell poppers for human consumption but they are often sold in sex shops and gay venues as “air fresheners”.
Research by the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), Britain’s largest sexual health charity, has linked their use with increased HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men, because they increase the risk of bleeding in the anal area.
The Minister for Crime Prevention, Jeremy Browne, said: “The government is committed to reducing the demand and supply of illicit drugs and is leading the international response to the new psychoactive substances (NPS) market; outlawing not just individual drugs but whole families of related substances which have the potential to cause harm.
“We are confident that our current approach to tackling drugs is the right one, but we are not complacent. We are continually looking for new ways to reduce the demand for drugs, restrict supply and promote recovery from dependence.”
He added: “It is important that the government works with all communities to understand why people are motivated to take drugs. New psychoactive substances can contain potentially dangerous chemicals and anyone who takes NPS can’t be 100% certain about what they have bought, what the effects are and whether it’s legal.”