A national policy to tackle a “concerning” rise in problems with legal highs needs to be set up, according to Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds.
Mr Simmonds was speaking at a conference in Northampton on Thursday, which brought together local and national speakers to debate the issue.
Organised by Northamptonshire charity, Solve It, and the London-based Angelus Foundation, the conference was attended by representatives of the police, CPS, Prison Service, social services, the National Crime Agency and a range of other bodies.
Mr Simmonds told the conference that legal highs should be a matter of concern for everyone.
He said: “Legal highs worry me as Police and Crime Commissioner; I know they concern my Chief Constable, and they should give sufficient cause for concern both in our wider society and for our national government.
“According to latest figures published by the National Programme of Substance Abuse Deaths, legal highs directly attributed to the deaths of 68 people in the UK in 2012.”
He said: “For years governments of all colours and all political parties have failed to define their position on drugs related policy.
“While they take their time over how to legislate to address the growing problem of NPS and arguments continue to be waged over the legalisation of certain drugs, or maybe drugs in general, they are legitimising their continued use.
“We need a clear national policy to assist us and we need to change society to be less tolerant of the presence of drugs in our communities.
“The Force needs to continue to tackle the issue of drug supply in our markets, but it is also increasingly important that police begin to tackle the demand for drugs in the first place.
“Perhaps most importantly, it is time that organisations like Solve It, the police, the county council, schools, prisons, providers of rehabilitation services and health work much more closely together to rid our society of the scourge of drugs.
“Finally, we need a legislative framework that on the whole is more nimble in adapting to changes in substances and chemical compounds.
“If we all work together to eradicate drugs by reducing demand, disrupting their supply, providing better preventions and early interventions, continuing to rehabilitate and to further educate our children, young people, adults and society- we can make Northamptonshire a safer place.”