Legal Highs

Legal Highs

“Legal” doesn’t always mean safe!

The word legal is used above in inverted commas. This is because legal highs are legal to purchase but not for human consumption.

Legal highs come in various forms including powder, pills and seeds. Various types are available these are intended to be a “legal” replica of Cocaine, Speed, Ecstasy, Hashish and LSD.

The most popular type of ‘legal high’ (usually referred to as Novel Psychoactive Substances) in the UK and here in Newcastle is synthetic cannabinoids, which mimic the effects of some of the compounds in cannabis. Unfortunately they are much more potent and last longer, so users are 30 times more likely to end up in A&E.

We have seen a lot of activity promoting ‘whipped cream’ – nitrous oxide – to students recently (small canisters which are used to inhale the substance, usually used alongside alcohol – a dangerous mix of depressants).

The most reported “legal” high recently has been mephedrone aka m-cat, miaow miaow, charge or bubble to name a few slang terms. This was made illegal on the 16th April 2010 and made a class B drug which means it is illegal to have it on you (possession) or to sell it to someone (supply). This carries up to 5 years in jail and an unlimited fine for possession and up to 14 years in jail for supplying them. This decision was made due to the high number of deaths linked to the use of Mephedrone.

Mephedrone is being replaced with a similar type of drug that will produce similar results. This type of chemical make up over-stimulates the nervous and circulatory system.

Side effects include:

  • Rapid heart rate and blood pressure affect circulation can cause blue hands and feet
  • Fits, agitation and hallucinations and paranoia
  • Stimulants can trigger psychosis which is having strange thoughts or beliefs, hearing and seeing things which aren’t really there and paranoia.
  • Death
  • Risks are higher if mixed with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Amnesia
  • Low mood during the “come down” the next day.
  • Higher risk of being in a potentially dangerous situation to inhibitions being lowered.
  • Abnormal breathing, this may be shallow or disrupted
  • The person does not react to loud noises or if you gently shake them
  • Gurgling, snoring or choking sounds
  • Low or high body temperature
  • Enlarged or small eye pupils
  • Heavy sweating
  • Skin may look blue, particularly around the lips
  • Drowsiness
  • Unconsciousness
  • People who have taken Cocaine or ‘Legal Highs’ may be very agitated and have a fast pulse

Other risks:

  • You increase the risk to yourself if you combine alcohol with any legal or illegal substance that causes a high, including the risk of death.
  • Reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures and death.
  • Because legal highs are often new and, in many cases, the actual chemical ingredients in a branded product can be changed without you knowing, the risks are unpredictable.
  • It is likely that a drug sold as a ‘legal high’ may contain one or more substances that are actually illegal to possess.

People who make illegal drugs do so with human consumption in mind (although they are NOT safe or they would be legal).

Be aware that these drugs may be more potent than illegal drugs due to pharmaceutical purity and an, unknown alkaloid content. These drugs are new so the content is constantly changing so the risk is further increased. Be aware that these drugs may be doused with poisonous pesticides.

Psychoactive Substances Act 2016

The Psychoactive Substances Act will be implemented by government on 6 April 2016. This will make it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment. This will carry the same charges as other drug offences and could ultimately impacts on travel Visa, disclosure checks etc. Another thing to consider is the effect on your future if you are caught possessing drugs it could affect your course or employability.

Further information

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