'Legal highs' to be banned

Home Office announces ban on 'party drugs' BZP and GBL after they were linked to deaths

The Home Office has announced that two so-called 'party drugs' will be banned by the end of the year after they were linked to a number of deaths.

The two drugs, BZP and GBL, will be classified as Class C, meaning users could be imprisoned for up to two years and dealers punished with a 14-year jail term.

Heather Stewart, who was 21, died after taking GBL in Brighton. Her parents had since campaigned for the drug, also known as liquid ecstasy, to be banned.

The other drug BZP, known as herbal ecstasy, is thought to have caused the death of 22-year-old mortgage broker Daniel Backhouse earlier this year.

The Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, said that the decision to ban these 'legal highs' was based on advice from the the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.

He said: "Legal highs are an emerging threat, particularly to young people, and we have a duty to educate them about the dangers.

"There is a perception that many of the so-called legal highs are harmless, however in some cases people can be ingesting dangerous industrial fluids or smoking chemicals that can be even more harmful than cannabis."

BZP and GBL, which is taken as a substitute for the date rape drug GHB, will be banned alongside the man-made cannabis substitute Spice. The latter will be restricted as a Class B drug.

Martin Barnes, the chief executive of the charity DrugScope, supported the government's decision to ban the drugs but warned that the law alone was a "blunt instrument".

He added: "We have concerns that in lumping all these substances together as 'legal highs', the significant differences in the effects and potential harms might be hard for young people to identify.

"It is important that public information and education campaigns are comprehensive and ongoing."

The Home Office has said it will launch an awareness campaign to coincide with university freshers' weeks in September.