Legal highs, lethal lows campaign launched

03 December 2012

On behalf of Leicestershire and Rutland Substance Misuse Strategic Team (SMST)
December 2012 sees the launch of the 'Legal highs, lethal lows' harm minimisation campaign by
Leicestershire and Rutland Substance Misuse Strategic Team (SMST).

The campaign aims to highlight the risks of legal highs (also known as Novel Psychoactive Substances) and recreational substance misuse, particularly to those enjoying the night time economy over the Christmas holidays when alcohol consumption also increases.

Legal Highs are substances which produce the same, or similar effects, to drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy but are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Legal Highs refers to a broad category of unregulated compounds or products that are marketed as legal alternatives to wellknown controlled drugs.

Paul Stratton, Senior Public Health Manager for NHS Leicestershire County and Rutland, said: 'Many young people think that because the substance is legal it is safe. Drugs intended for human consumption must be regulated under the medicines act and therefore undergo rigorous testing to determine how they can be used safely.

'Most legal highs are illegal to sell, supply or advertise for human consumption because of their effects on the body. However because producers of synthetic drugs claim these products are not intended for human consumption, they can be sold unregulated.

'This means that when you put the drug into your body, you are taking a real risk with your health. I welcome this campaign that will hopefully educate young people and others to make an informed choice before they risk their health.'

Various initiatives will be running over an eight week period across Leicestershire and Rutland to raise awareness of the effects of legal highs and offering help and support, these include: a poster campaign within local bars, taxis, educational establishments and drug and alcohol treatment services across the County, launch of a free downloadable phone application game 'life is a dance floor' with a competition to win the new Apple IPAD mini in partnership with Takeover Radio and local youth website The Jitty.

Daily news and tweets will also be posted via the SMST Facebook and Twitter pages and via the dedicated campaign website at: www.legalhighslethallows.co.uk

Jo Woods, Regional Development Manager for Swanswell in Leicestershire and Rutland, said: 'We’re pleased to be part of a campaign that raises awareness of the real dangers associated with taking legal highs.

'Legal highs are becoming increasingly popular and in many cases are the drug of choice on the club scene – yet many people take them without realising the harm they can cause, especially if mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

'If you want to know more about the risks of legal highs or are worried about someone else’s use, get in touch with Swanswell on 0300 303 5000.'

Superintendent Andy Lee lead for Drugs and Alcohol Misuse at Leicestershire Police said: “When you go to a chemist to buy a pharmaceutical product, you can be assured that what you are about to take has been tested and is fit for human consumption. There are no such guarantees with legal highs.

'Legal highs discovered during police raids and crime scene investigations are often found to contain illegal substances. The true long-term harm caused by these substances will not be known for some time to come, they are best avoided. Leicestershire Police support the SMST Legal Highs Lethal Lows campaign.'

The harms of legal highs are multi-faceted. Health services including commissioned drug and alcohol treatment services locally are starting to see health and other problems caused by regular use of these drugs and new substances are emerging each week.

Debra Cunningham, Strategic Manager for SMST said: 'Working with our colleagues from Leicestershire Police, Leicestershire & Rutland Primary Care Trust and our Borough/District councils, we continue to work to reduce the harms caused by substance misuse.'

The 'Legal Highs Lethal Lows' campaign will run from 03 December 2012, until the end of January, 2013 and then be followed by a number of initiatives throughout the spring/summer aimed at music festivals and student freshers weeks.

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