Addiction is a problem across UK cities and towns, and many parents worry about their children getting caught up with drugs or alcohol. However, these days, parents have another substance to worry about because so-called ‘legal highs’ have been linked to a number of deaths among teenagers and young adults.

What are Legal Highs?

Legal highs are also known as new psychoactive substances and are sold legally as plant food, incense, and bath salts. They cannot be sold for human consumption, but that does not stop people from using them to get high.

Legal highs are manufactured chemical substances made to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. Unfortunately, legal highs are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, but the Government has proposed a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances, with the exception of alcohol and caffeine, to tackle the growing problem.

Although many of the ingredients in legal highs are now banned, the manufacturers can simply create new substances with different ingredients and sell the product under the same name. Although these products have been labelled as ‘legal’ highs and it is legal to possess them, they are not safe to take as little research has been conducted into the effects.

Many legal highs are available for sale on high streets or online and, because of this, teenagers and young adults often believe these must be safe to use.

As legal highs are generally sold as powders, herbs, liquids, pills and capsules, there are many ways in which they are used. Typically, they are snorted, swallowed or smoked, but reports of individuals injecting legal highs have surfaced recently.

Types of Legal Highs

Legal highs are changing all the time as manufacturers try to get around the law. It is impossible for people to know exactly what they are taking because every batch of a particular substance can be different. Nevertheless, legal highs are generally sold in three categories:

  • Hallucinogens – act like ketamine, LSD, or magic mushrooms. They can make users hallucinate and create feelings of warmth and euphoria.
  • Stimulants – act in a similar fashion to cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy. They make the user feel euphoric, energised and very talkative.
  • Downers – are similar to benzodiazepines and cannabis. They produce feelings of relaxation, sleepiness and happiness.

The Dangers of Legal Highs

The biggest danger of legal highs is the fact that it is impossible to know exactly what you are taking. Because manufacturers are constantly changing the ingredients in order to get around the law, nobody can really know for sure what is contained within them. This can mean that even though a person did not have an adverse reaction to a legal high one time, does not mean they will not have a reaction the next.

It is difficult for medical staff to treat those who have had a bad reaction to a legal high for this same reason. They simply cannot know for sure what is in the drug, and this can make it difficult to identify the right treatment in time.

As legal highs are not meant for human consumption, they have not been tested on humans and, as a consequence, are not safe to take. They have been linked to brain damage, seizures, mental health issues, heart problems, and death. The risk is greater for those who mix legal highs with other drugs or alcohol.

Just as with other chemical substances, there are other risks to the user, including lowered inhibitions leading to risky behaviour and accidents. There have been a number of reports of people becoming addicted to legal highs and suffering consequences such as financial hardship and damaged relationships.

The Danger of Injecting Legal Highs

While most people who take legal highs will smoke, snort or swallow these substances, some individuals are injecting them to get a more ‘intense’ high. Nonetheless, this is extremely dangerous and can lead to a plethora of problems.

As with other drugs that are injected, those injecting legal highs are at risk of infections such as hepatitis C or HIV if they share needles. Injecting legal highs can also lead to damaged veins and can increase the risk of a blood clot or abscess developing. Blood clots can, in turn, lead to heart problems and other infections.

Legal Highs Addiction

As legal highs contain a number of chemical ingredients that affect the brain, it is possible to become addicted. Those who continue to take legal highs on a regular basis may become tolerant to the effects of the drug and, after a while, their bodies will begin to crave it.

When they get to the point where they experience symptoms such as anxiety, shaking, sweating or headaches when they are not taking the drug, they have become physically dependent. And upon continuing to take the drug despite knowing that to do so will cause harm to themselves or others, they have become addicted.

Not everyone who takes legal highs will become addicted, but everyone who takes them is risking their health. Not enough research has been done on the long-term effects of legal highs addiction, and the ever-changing ingredients mean it is impossible to tell whether a person will have a reaction.

Treatment for Legal High Addiction

Just as with any other addiction, a legal high addiction is an illness. It requires treatment; here at Addiction Helper, we can provide information and advice on how and where to access the help you need. We have a team of counsellors and therapists working hard to put those who need help for addiction in touch with the various organisations around the country providing care and treatments.

It may be necessary for you to undergo a programme of detox before rehabilitation can begin, but we can provide you with information on the various options available to you. Call us today for more information on how we can help.