Tyne & Wear

Highs being sold despite ban, Newcastle charity says

So called 'legal highs' Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The ban came into force in May

Users are still getting hold of the drugs once known as legal highs despite them being banned, a charity claims.

The cost has increased and many addicts are begging to fund their habits, Changing Lives said.

Brian Aitken from the Newcastle charity said dealers had "stockpiled supplies".

The production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances - cannabis and cocaine substitutes such as Spice and Black Mamba - became a criminal offence in May.

Possession for personal use is not a criminal offence, unless the user is in prison.

'Getting quite violent'

Packets of the drugs which had cost £5-£10 were being sold for over £20, Mr Aitken said he had been told by users.

"Those people who were buying in bulk at a cheap price, they're able to command quite a high price now and they're making a fortune," he said.

Bill, 22, who sleeps rough in Newcastle, said the drugs were difficult to get hold of.

"It's really hard, people are having to go through other people, they've having to get it from Manchester, people are having to mission all over for it," he said.

"The ban coming in, it's made it worse, really, because, with it being harder to get, most people aren't being able to feed their addiction so they're getting quite violent and stuff like that."

Last year legal highs were linked to more than 100 deaths in the UK and a rise in violent assaults in prison.

Northumbria Police said the Psychoactive Substances Act gave officers "specific legislation to help us tackle what is a very, very difficult issue".

When the ban was introduced charities helping homeless people, addicts and young people warned it could drive sales underground and onto the black market online.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites