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Legal Highs: Just The Facts

The facts about legal highs and what they can do to your body.

What are Legal Highs?

Legal highs also known as ‘psychoactive substances’, are drugs that are deliberately designed to copy the effects of illegal substances, such as cannabis or cocaine. A ‘legal high’ is defined in the new law (2016) as a drug which is capable of affecting a person’s mental functioning or emotional state, but is not currently controlled as a class A, B or C drug.

The Law

It’s against the law to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoac­tive effect. The maximum sentence will be seven years’ imprisonment. In short, they’re not actually legal at all!

How Legal Highs affect your health

Although these drugs are known as ‘legal’ highs, that doesn’t mean these substances are safe or ok to use. These drugs are often new, there’s been little or no research into their short and long-term impact on your health so the risks are unpredictable.

Packaging of Legal Highs

Packaging of legak highs is inconsistent, which means it’s impossible to predict a safe dose. You don’t know for sure exactly what you’re taking or how it’s going to affect you.

Things to remember:

  • Just because you were ok last time, doesn’t mean you’ll be ok next time – the drug may not be the same strength or compound this time around.
  • Remember that these drugs can be a lot more dangerous when mixed with other substances or with alcohol.

Side effects of Legal Highs

  • People who use them have reported side-effects such as headaches, nausea, palpitations, anxiety and drowsiness.
  • Users of mephedrone for example have reported blue or cold fingers. This may be because the drug affects the heart and circulation.
  • Some deaths have been linked with people taking a cocktail of drink and drugs. The chemicals that are in legal highs can make you feel anxious, paranoid or make you hallucinate. There has been a marked rise in the number of deaths connected to legal highs between 2011 and 2013 – they’ve tripled from 7 to 23.
  • Your mental health can suffer too as studies in Manchester have demonstrated.

How to get help

If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your public health nurse.

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