The innovative work being done to combat the “phenomenal risk” of legal highs in Angus has been highlighted to the Scottish Government.
During a recent visit to Angus police HQ Mr Wheelhouse, Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, said he is “greatly encouraged” by the proactive, multi-agency approach to disrupt the sales of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which he said is a priority for the Scottish Government.
Mr Wheelhouse was in Angus on a fact-finding trip to hear about the approach being taken in the county to deal with a range of crime and public safety issues.
Officers involved in Operation Carinate, set up to tackle the increasing problem of new psychoactive substances (NPS), briefed Mr Wheelhouse on the local situation.
They said that more users are injecting the substances as an alternative to, or in combination with, other drugs but that even hardened drug users are shocked by their effects.
Sergeant Grace Morrison told Mr Wheelhouse that while working in custody recently, all of the cases dealt with involved NPS and most of the individuals had injected the substances.
She said: “They differ very minutely from controlled drugs. Use can result in strokes, heart attacks and death - NPS have been found to be involved in one death per week (nationally) although this could be a lot higher.
“As well as physical conditions, acute mental health problems are associated with their use, but people think that because they’re legal, they’re fine.”
Sergeant Nicky Forrester also said that established drug users had reported effects unlike anything they had experienced before.
She added: “Yet there are young people not hardened by using drugs who are using legal highs. The risk is phenomenal.”
Mr Wheelhouse was on a fact-finding visit to hear of the multi-agency work being carried out in Angus across a range of crime and public safety issues including NPS and financial scams .
He said: “Part of the reason I am here is that I am greatly encouraged by the proactive approach in Angus. NPS is a priority for the Scottish Government. We need to get on top of this and clamp down on this.
“I’m encouraged by what is happening in Angus and thank you for what you are doing.
“I understand why the community is so concerned about it, particularly with news that injecting is going on.”
The force in Angus is working with partner agencies to use existing laws to investigate and disrupt the shop sales of NPS and Chief Inspector Gordon Milne, area commander, said he is appalled that NPS are openly on sale
He said: “I cannot accept that shops of this type can advertise a ‘Buy one get one free’ on these types of substances, or offer loyalty cards to their customers, yet that is what happens.”