What are the odds when your client takes legal highs?

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Dangers of Legal Highs

‘Legal Highs', a popular term adopted by the media and more commonly by the general public, is actually incorrect.

Their real name is New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). Categorised as Designer Drugs/Bath Salts/Synthetics, NPS is the name that should be used to define them and it describes them much more accurately.

‘Legal Highs’ are easy to purchase, available online and even on the high streets in retail outlets across the UK. This gives the general public a false sense of security about how safe they are for human consumption. They are not. In fact, there have been 97 ‘Legal High’ related deaths since 2012. Since the introduction of the Psychoactive Substance Act in May 2016 these drugs are no longer legal to produce or supply. However, there is no penalty for possession.

How were they legal?

NPS are designed to mimic similar effects to their illegal counterparts, such as Methamphetamines, Cocaine and Ecstasy. NPS are structurally different at the molecular level, which made them different enough to not be classified as an illegal drug, and ultimately, not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

As Trading Standards successfully banned one substance, often the retailer was able to ‘tweak’ the molecular structure and re-launch it as an entirely new ‘recipe’ to go back on sale. This could usually be done within 7 days.

The Queen in her speech in May 2015 requested to ‘ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs’  but central government have been slow to react to the demands of drug advisory groups and other Health organisations.

NPS are designed to mimic similar effects to their illegal counterparts, such as Methamphetamines, Cocaine and Ecstasy. NPS are structurally different at the molecular level, which made them different enough to not be classified as an illegal drug, and ultimately, not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

As Trading Standards successfully banned one substance, often the retailer was able to ‘tweak’ the molecular structure and re-launch it as an entirely new ‘recipe’ to go back on sale. This could usually be done within 7 days.

The Queen in her speech in May 2015 requested to ‘ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs’ but central government were slow to react to the demands of drug advisory groups and other Health organisations.

NPS could not be sold for human consumption. Therefore, they were commonly sold as plant food, bath salts and cleaning materials, such as jewellery cleaner. They were also labelled as ‘not fit for human consumption’ and the seller could not advise you to take them.

As more and more NPS are being researched, some of them are actually being found to have other illegal substances in them - the fact that if something is sold as legal, it doesn't make it safe for human consumption. No-one can be sure what is in a packet of NPS or what the effects are likely to be. Within the past three years, deaths involving NPS has dramatically increased by 800%, this figure is likely to increase as they gain even more popularity.  

What do they look like and how are they taken?

NPS are sold in shiny, attractive looking packets, with brand names such as ‘Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Benzo Fury’, ‘Afghan Incense’ or ‘Spice’ and are normally sold as pills or powders or synthetic grass like substances. These substances can vary in colour, odourless and can range from a fine flour like thickness to small crystals. The smoking style of NPS look like plant cuttings or dried herbs, they otherwise look very similar to actual cannabis buds

What are their effects?

The effects of NPS are not totally understood but are designed and created artificially to produce similar reactions to other illegal substances and illicit drugs. However, as the substances are continuously changing and are being cut with different compounds, each reaction from a dosage can vary significantly. Synthetic Cannabinoids (similar to Cannabis) are often laced with a psychoactive spray and can be 100 times more potent than Cannabis, making it much more dangerous than its illegal counterpart.

Another misconception is that these substances can be consumed, ingested or inhaled safely when combined with alcohol. The overwhelming effects on the human body can explain the huge increase in admissions in A&E departments nationally.

If you would like to know more about NPS and how DNA Legal can test for them, please call 0203 4243 470 or you can visit www.dnalegal.com/legal-highs-and-designer-drug-testing. Alternatively you can email the team on info@dnalegal.com.

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