Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Legal highs – request from The Children’s Society for information

From DrugScope’s latest Members Briefing:

Devon-based Children’s Society projects are concerned about an increase in the availability of these [legal highs] substances and the use of them by young people in their area. This increase in use has been mirrored by recent articles in national press and sector publications, putting forward a range of limited research and anecdotal evidence – with particular attention paid to a few users who have experienced sometimes lethal side effects.

Steven Hawker, Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Worker at The Children’s Society Checkpoint project in Torquay, expressed concern about the way young people view these drugs and the way professionals communicate about them. “While we feel there is some advantage in highlighting specific risks and effects of individual legal highs, it concerns me there is very little literature highlighting the general risks of these substances”, he said. “Of particular concern are inexperienced substance users who may take the view that legal equals safe and that this may impact on them consuming potentially large amounts of stimulants or hallucinogens.”

The Children’s Society would be interested if any organisation has:

  • produced any awareness campaigns in their area
  • seen significant rises in use
  • become aware of specific negative effects of particular drugs.

The Children’s Society would also welcome any thoughts on how young people should be made aware of the potential risks of legal highs, particularly substances where research into the risks of short and long-term use is limited.

The DrugScope briefing has the contact details for the Children’s Society.

Filed under: legal high

Salvia: more powerful than LSD, and legal

The Telegraph carries a long piece about salvia, “a legal high”.  The piece says that:

Watching young people out of their minds on salvia is the latest YouTube sensation and is fuelling the popularity of the herb. But, for those with a clear head, the films – some of which have been viewed more than a million times – are deeply disturbing. Users are reduced to mumbling wrecks, giggling and screaming, gasping and muttering, waving their hands around as they sink into a sofa or crumple to the floor. What we don’t see are the visions, lights, swirls and hallucinations that many say they have experienced. Or the nightmarish sense that they are close to death, going insane or under attack.

The drug has been outlawed, or its sale and distribution restricted, in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Japan, Spain and Sweden. In the UK the Telegraph say:

Labour MP John Mann has lobbied for the British Government to review salvia’s legal status and last October he wrote to the Home Secretary urging her to take action. Earlier this month the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs met to discuss salvia, among other substances, and there will be a follow-up meeting in May. According to a Home Office spokesperson, ‘If a compelling case is made for any “legal high” to be added to the list of controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 because they pose a significant health and social problem, we will not hesitate to seek Parliament’s agreement to do so following reference to, and advice from, the ACMD on the case for control.’

In terms of prevalence the story says:

studies at some US universities concluded that up to 7 per cent of students had tried it. There are no figures for Britain, but among undergraduates I asked, most had heard of it and many knew peers who had used it.

Filed under: legal high

Chasing the chemical demons

Dr John Ramsey, of St George’s Medical School in London, writes about legal highs on the BBC website:

While the government consults its advisors on the harms caused by cannabis and ecstasy and then disregards the evidence they produce, UK based websites and high-street “head” shops are exploiting the naivety of young people by marketing to them chemicals never before used as drugs.

Read more here and people’s reaction to his views here.

Filed under: legal high

Exotic, legal highs become big business as ‘headshops’ boom

The Guardian takes a look at legally available drugs:

A hotchpotch of shamanic plants, synthetic stimulants, and psychedelic cacti, most imported from the Netherlands, New Zealand and India, are repackaged and sold across the UK. An intoxicant plant from Thailand called Kratom is a big seller and dubbed the ‘herbal speedball’ due its apparent euphoric effects. Also selling well is a new breed of ecstasy-like drugs, marketed as ‘p.e.p pills’. They contain piperazines, stimulant chemicals from the same chemical family as Viagra.

Magic mushroom sellers have switched to selling another mushroom, not yet outlawed: the red-and-white spotted Fly Agaric toadstool, which contains the psychoactive chemicals muscimol and ibotenic acid which can trigger delirious, dream-like states.

Thanks to the effectiveness of these legal highs and the large customer base created by the mushroom boom, the trade is booming in shops and on the web, with shoppers exploiting secure credit card orders and 24-hour websites.

Given that drug education tackles every type of drug, does anyone have examples of drug education tackling these sorts of drugs? Has there been any needs assessment done and if so what have people found out?

Filed under: legal high

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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July 2021