Legal Highs – Guidance for employers
ACAS have issued guidance on the problem of employees using so called legal highs in the workplace. According to ACAS, legal highs, sometimes known as new psychoactive substances are substances which emulate the effects of illegal drugs, such as speed or cannabis but are not, in themselves illegal. Some of these substances are stimulants, others may mimic the effect of drunkenness and some are hallucinogenic. Often sold as plant food or bath salts, many of these substances have not been certified for human consumption. This can sometimes have devastating effects, as reported by the Bristol Post this weekend, click here.
The ACAS guidance states the following key points about the possible use of legal highs in the workplace:
- Many so called “legal highs” are already illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act but new substances – yet to be controlled – continue to emerge on the market.
- The drugs imitate the effects on users of more traditional illegal substances.
- During 2014 in England, Scotland and Wales there were a reported 129 deaths where new psychoactive substances were implicated.
- There is currently legislation going through Parliament to ban the supply of these drugs based on their psychoactive effects.
- Employers should consider legal highs when writing their drug and alcohol policies.
As stated above, the government have reacted to the problem of legal highs and in May last year announced the Psychoactive Substances Bill. The legislation will ban all psychoactive substances with the exception of everyday substances such as coffee and alcohol. Substances that are already illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and prescription medicines will not be covered by the new law.
Employers should consider their existing drug and alcohol policies in light of the new problem of legal highs. Just because a substance is not illegal does not mean that its use cannot be controlled in the workplace. Some policies however, may need to be amended to deal with the problem of legal highs. For the ACAS guidance, click here
1 February 2016
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