Record number of legal highs detected by doctors
A record number of new legal highs were identified last year by British scientists.The scientists – who’ve advised the government before – said that more than 41 new substances were detected across Europe in 2011, breaking the previous year’s tally.
They are mainly from China and being bought by UK users over the internet.
The official figure is set to be confirmed later in the year by the EU drugs agency, the EMCDDA.
Because the substances haven’t been tested yet the long term effects are unknown.
Katy MacLeod from Edinburgh Crew 2000, a charity that helps young people with substance issues, said legal highs were difficult to deal with.
“We already know quite a lot about cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine,” she said.
“It’s probably easier to treat people with those kind of drugs, because we have much more pieces of research done. With legal highs, the same knowledge base isn’t there yet.”
In just a couple of weeks, they treated 34 people who had all been poisoned by Ivory Wave, which has now been banned.
The government says it will use powers that came in in November to ban all potentially dangerous new substances while they’re being tested.
But Dr Stephen Potts, who works at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, says he’s worried about new legal highs emerging as soon as others are banned.
“The people who take them don’t know what’s in them,” he explains. “The people who sell them don’t know what’s in them, and we as the doctors certainly don’t know what’s in them.”
Dr John Ramsey tests new legal highs in his laboratory at St George’s medical school in London.
He told Newsbeat that some of the new substances he comes across are potentially very dangerous: “We’ve got a compound we found a couple of days ago which is potent at 100 micrograms – that’s a tiny amount.
“Most drugs are active at about 100 milligrams. This one is about a 1000 times more potent. The risks people are taking are just not worth it.”
Tags: Doctors, drugs classification, Health Professionals, Risk of Drugs