Reaction against the news that there are plans for a ‘legal highs’ shop in North Street, Forfar has been swift, to say the least.
A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes, as well as in the public eye, to raise awareness of the business and to put the message across that this sort of activity is not welcome in Forfar.
Previous similar business ventures in both Montrose and Arbroath, which sold new psychoactive substances (NPS), have been fraught with controversy - the former business was broken into repeatedly and the latter was closed at the beginning of the year following a public campaign.
In Arbroath the closure of Evape-o-lution was welcomed by one local woman whose brother died after becoming addicted to NPS.
The 33-year-old father of three died “looking like a vampire” in Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, due to complications from endocarditis. He had lost four stone in five months, which his family attributed to NPS.
Make no bones about it, while these substances may technically be legal, their chemical make-up is frightening.
The NHS Choices website is both informative and unsettling in its profile on NPS.
It explains legal highs are substances used like illegal drugs such as cocaine or cannabis, but not covered by current misuse of drugs laws. This means they are legal to possess or to use.
And although these drugs are marketed as legal substances, this doesn’t mean they are safe or approved for people to use. It just means they’ve not been declared illegal to use and possess. Some drugs marketed as legal highs actually contain ingredients that are illegal to possess.
What worries me the most is the fact legal highs can carry serious health risks. The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been used in drugs for human consumption before. This means they haven’t been tested to show they are safe so users can never be certain what they are taking and what the effects might be.
The location of the shop in North Street is also frightening - it is just a stone’s throw away from the sheriff court, it is on the route for pupils going to and from Forfar Academy, and it is within spitting distance of one of two local pubs and a nightclub.
Local residents do not need this, local parents do not need this - good luck to all those who are campaigning against it.