10th November 2015

Legal highs: Worth the risk?

As the use of legal highs rises, Hannah McGrory discusses whether the high is worth the fallout… or not

The subject of legal highs is one that has long been debated amongst politicians, medical specialists and the media alike; however, how many of us really understand just how much of a danger such substances can pose? Police incidents involving those under the influence of legal highs have more than doubled over the past two years—a fact that has been highlighted by recent circulation of alarming footage showing the distressing effects that the drugs can inflict upon a person’s body. Earlier this month, Cheshire Police released a video clip that clearly illustrates a man opening a packet, collapsing soon after consuming the contents, and later having to be helped into an ambulance.

Officially branded as “new psychoactive substances,” legal highs are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis by being constructed according to slight molecular-level changes allowing them to evade anti-drug laws, most specifically the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971). Because of these minor tweaks, the substances are legally able to be sold on both websites and in high-street shops across the country. Although technically it is prohibited to market legal highs as being fit for human consumption, many vendors get around this hiccup by advertising products such as Cherry Bomb, Spice, Pandora’s Box and Gogaine as inconspicuous items like plant food, incense and bath salts.

Although appealing as it may be to experience a high without the risk of getting caught, it is also highly important to remember that the word ‘legal’ is not synonymous with the word ‘safe’. Senior paramedic for North West Ambulance Service, Wayne Pemberton, said: “These substances are not designed for human consumption and people should not be fooled into thinking they are safe because of their nickname.

“I myself have witnessed a change in the extremity of the symptoms presented in people who have taken these ‘legal highs,’ such as hallucination, unconsciousness and even respiratory arrest and, since we have no idea what chemicals have gone into the drugs, it can be difficult to know how to treat these patients.”

Thus, remember, with Warehouse Project in full swing and the party season drawing ever closer, be careful with the substances that you might be offered, legal or not—most of the time there’s no way of knowing what you could be putting into your body.

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