The trade in legal highs has been defended by an industry worker, who has called for a change in the law.
Emma McLaren spoke out after hearing one of her regular customers had been left fighting for his life after taking the drugs.
She said she was “sad and shocked” to hear the 32-year-old had been rushed to Perth Royal Infirmary in the early hours of March 22.
The father of the man, who has asked to remain anonymous, told The Courier last week it is the fourth time his severely depressed son had been hospitalised after consuming the psychoactive substances.
He was treated in the intensive care unit and spent a night on a ventilator.
Ms McLaren, who is deputy manager of the This N That shop in Perth, said the law prevented her from discussing the products with customers.
“Our side never gets spoken about as most are too scared in case they get arrested for confirming what the products are actually used for, even though it’s obvious.
“If we had the same responsibility as those selling alcohol have, we could say: ‘I think this will be too strong for you’ or, ‘you only need a little bit at a time’ and, ‘maybe you should give it a rest for a bit’ or ‘I think you’ve had enough already’, but we are not allowed to by law.”
Ms McLaren said: “The customers are people from all walks of life, of all ages, most never have any problems. Many have used illegal drugs in the past and now wish to find a legal alternative.
“I feel that even though there are dangers it’s only a certain percentage that are pushing the limits. Most just want a wee helping hand to get through this life.
“Alcohol and tobacco are drugs legal highs can be just as safe if taken sensibly and responsibly.
“I want legal highs to stay, but I want them to be classified to give better information, like with cigarettes and alcohol, so that people can make an informed choice.”
She said that had she known about the customer’s depression she would have been prepared to break the law to help him.
She said: “I don’t know if his family knew he was taking beforehand, but if they had come into the shop and told me he was a vulnerable adult I would have been willing to break the law and talk to him about the products in more detail and maybe even refuse to sell any more after a certain amount.”
However, the man’s father hit back, saying legal high shops are “causing misery to make money”.
He said: “I think these people are too divorced from reality. Whether it’s legal or not these drugs put him in intensive care because he reacted badly to them.
“The difference between these substances and alcohol is that we know what alcohol does, we don’t know what this stuff does.
“A pharmacist has to know what’s in every drug they sell but on the packets of legal highs it just says ‘research chemical’ and ‘for potpourri’ use.”
Talk to Frank, a UK anti-drugs campaign group, confirmed legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption and are labelled as incense, salts or plant food to avoid falling foul of the law.