Learning lessons from legal highs in prisons

The Prison and Probation Ombudsman has published a ‘Learning lessons bulletin’ that focuses on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) amidst concerns about their impact on prisoner health and welfare.

Nigel Newcomen, PPO, said: “The use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) is a source of increasing concern, not least in prison. As these substances are not allowed in prison, and also because they are difficult to test for, it is possible that in addition to the cases in this bulletin there were other prisoners who had used such drugs before their death.


drug00232“NPS cover a range of substances, and the precise health risks are difficult to establish. However, there is emerging evidence that there are dangers to both physical and mental health, and there may in some cases be links to suicide or self-harm. Staff and other prisoners may be at risk from users reacting violently to the effects of NPS.

“Trading of these substances in prison can also lead to debt, violence and intimidation. Once again, this creates the potential to increase self-harm or suicide among the vulnerable, as well as adding to the security and control problems facing staff.

“I hope, by sharing the lessons from the few deaths where we know that use of NPS was a factor, this will support efforts in prison to address the threats they pose and help educate prisoners about the risks involved.”

The lessons to be learned are:


Download the bulletin here