A study in Newcastle has found links between the use of legal highs with increasing levels of antisocial behaviour and incidents of begging among young people.
Researchers from Northumbria University were commissioned by Newcastle City Council and Newcastle Youth Offending Team to examine the social effects of novel psychoactive substances (NPS), better known as legal highs.
During 2014 more than 1,100 hours of police time was spent dealing with NPS-related incidents.
The research involved surveys with young people, in-depth focus groups and interviews with young people and staff from various local agencies.
‘Although statistically there hasn't been a significant increase in homelessness in Newcastle, there could be a public perception that rough sleeping is a growing problem because of more people being visible on the streets, some of whom are begging to fund the use of legal highs,’ said Adele Irving, one of the authors of the study.
‘We were informed of a small increase in the number of young people being evicted from their housing as a result of negative behaviour caused by taking legal highs. However, the perception that homelessness is getting progressively worse is incorrect. Overall, the number of evictions from supported housing in the city has decreased in the past 12 months. A recent rise in the number of people begging on the streets is, in some cases, to secure money for legal highs, rather than because they are homeless.’