Swanswell backs Government adviser’s legal highs warning

17 May 2013

Swanswell’s backing a warning from the Government’s senior drugs adviser about the dangers of ‘legal highs’.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to Professor Les Iversen’s concerns that the law is struggling to keep up with new synthetic drugs being created at a rate of more than one a week (reports the Telegraph).

Professor Iversen, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said there were more than 200 potentially dangerous synthetic drugs yet to be banned, raising particular concerns about ‘Benzo Fury’ and a new set of LSD-based compounds.

Although ‘legal highs’ are marketed as legal substances, it doesn’t mean they are safe – it just means they have not yet been fully checked and a decision made about whether they should be an illegal drug to use or possess.

They’re often used like illegal substances such as cocaine or cannabis and can be very dangerous, particularly if mixed with other drugs or alcohol. They’re sometimes advertised as bath salts or plant food, with a warning they’re not fit for human consumption.

While the long term effects aren’t really known, legal highs cause reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures and, in the worst cases, death.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Legal highs can be very dangerous, as highlighted by some of the tragic cases reported in the press, where people have died after using them.

‘Not enough is known about the long term effects of the harms they can cause because they haven’t been around very long, unlike most of the illicit drugs we work with on a daily basis.

So we welcome the warning from Professor Iversen about the risks of using legal highs, especially as there are around 200 new substances that we know very little about and haven’t yet been banned, so are currently legal to both buy and use.

It’s alarming to think that there are so many of them which contain chemicals that may not have been tested for human consumption.

Users will never really know what’s in the legal highs they can buy on the internet or even on the high street, or what their effects are, particularly if mixed with alcohol or other drugs.

‘We’re urging people to think twice before taking them and talk to organisations like Swanswell if they’re worried about themselves or someone else.’

Swanswell is currently supporting a campaign, led by the Leicestershire and Rutland Substance Misuse Strategic Team, called ‘Legal highs, lethal lows’, which highlights the risks of recreational drug use and links to health risks in isolation or combined with alcohol.

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