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Substance Misuse: The real dangers of legal highs

21st April 2016
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We have entered a new age of substance abuse. We are watching an evolution of addictive habits unravel before our very eyes as a whole new wave of synthetic substances has washed over the UK.

The substances we are exposed to are getting stronger, more addictive, more damaging and extremely accessible. The progression of these substances is clear to see. It is no longer the old school hashish that dominates the market but the modern day skunk,which now takes up 80% of sales. Sometimes the consumer might think they are buying hash when it is actually skunk. We are seeing a huge rise in diagnosis of mental health such as Psychosis (25% increase in teens),  that is directly linked to the newer, stronger strains of marijuana that carry heavy doses of THC and lower or non-existent CBD - which reduces the psychotic effects of THC.

But we are now facing a new issue that surpasses even the shocking statistics of super strong skunk. New psychoactive substances (Legal Highs) and synthetic cannabis (Legal Weed) products such as ‘Mamba’ are currently being sold legally in the UK and there are currently no lawful regulations to stop the sales.

A new UK law was set to be introduced at the beginning April to stop the commercial sale of “legal highs”, however the law was postponed due to lack of evidence that the situation could be improved by making the substances illegal. In 2010 a ban on selling these types of substances in the Republic of Ireland was put in place to no avail. The drugs are supposedly just as accessible, if not more so.

The strength of these substances are equal if not overshadowing the likes of certain class A drugs. There is a growing epidemic of people who are already suffering from addiction turning to products like Mamba as a substitute to what they are used to and then wishing they had stayed with class A, as the effects can be worse and harder to get off.

There is an assumption that these substances must be safer than class A drugs as they are legal, but the reality is quite the opposite. Substances that have been made illegal have been studied over long periods of time, whereas with research chemicals, we basically have no idea about any of the long-term effects, although we can take an educated guess it isn’t good. Every packet of synthetic cannabis that is sold could be different to the next, as there is no regulation of ingredients. If one ingredient gets banned, they will replace it with another, meaning there is no regulation on what is actually being sold.

Where will this evolution of stronger, more harmful substances end? The statistics of mental health problems and even deaths linked to the newer, legal substances proves that this evolution of strength is continuing at an alarming rate. And if this growing problem cannot be stopped by law enforcement then what can be done? If we can build resilience within young people and educate people on the reality of the “legal highs” then we can reduce the use of these harmful, untrustworthy drugs.

If you do decide to experiment with “Legal Highs” then please make sure you:

1. Keep the packet.

2. Let someone who is not taking it know exactly what you have taken and when.

3. Be with someone drug-free who can look after you if you have a bad-trip or react negatively to it.

4. Pack a hospital bag as there is a high chance you might end up there.

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