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Fewer legal high shops thanks to legal action by Belfast City Council

By Michael McHugh

Published 23/05/2016

Over 350 psychoactive substances have now been banned and a blanket prohibition is to be introduced later this month
Over 350 psychoactive substances have now been banned and a blanket prohibition is to be introduced later this month

Most shops have stopped selling psychoactive substances and drug-taking equipment in Northern Ireland, after a successful legal action by Belfast City Council, the chief medical officer said.

Until recently, the PSNI estimated there were 20 "head shops" peddling psychoactive substances. But following Westminster legislation and a case against several businessmen taken by Belfast Council, most have stopped stocking the potentially lethal chemicals.

Chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride said he hoped the new law would deter many people from experimenting.

"Following the successful legal action in Belfast, PSNI now suggests that most shops in Northern Ireland which had been selling drug paraphernalia (bongs, pipes, etc) have stopped."

A year ago a landmark legal ruling - the first of its kind in the UK - saw three people sentenced for the sale and distribution of so-called "legal highs" after Belfast City Council action.

Over 350 psychoactive substances have now been banned and a blanket prohibition is to be introduced later this month.

Former senior coroner in Northern Ireland, John Leckey, likened substances formerly known as legal highs to a serial killer after they were found to be responsible for 20 deaths in Northern Ireland.

Dr McBride said people are living longer, healthier lives, dental health for five-year-olds to 12-year-olds is improving and young people are less likely to smoke. His report highlighted the health benefits of regular exercise and offered new advice on safer levels of alcohol consumption. The report also dealt with the disturbing problem of self-harm. It said Derry City Council residents had a much higher rate of self-harm than those in other local government districts.

The peak age for women to self-harm was between 15 and 19; one in every 119 girls in this age group presented with repeat self-harm. For men, the highest rate was among 20-to-24-year-olds.

From April 2013 to March 2014 there were almost 8,500 self-harm presentations to emergency departments by around 6,000 people. Alcohol was involved in almost half the cases.

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