National health alert over ‘legal highs’ after string of deaths

‘Legal highs’, ‘synthetic drugs’ and ‘designer drugs’ all pose great concern to society today – both from health and law-enforcement perspectives . The use of these types of drugs is increasing enormously because they are relatively cheap and readily available. Furthermore, as their compositions are constantly changing in order to escape ‘illegal drug’ status, it is increasingly difficult for law-enforcement agencies to determine whether a substance is considered to be on the ‘illegal’ list or not. If a country’s legislation were to impose a general ban on psychoactive substances (like Ireland has), then Drug Lab 118’s NH2 would be an invaluable asset to police as they would be able to instantly determine whether a substance consisted of amines – which are the psychoactive chemical compounds found in a drug.

See the Mirror article below:

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Synthetic cannabis or ‘spice’ can cause vomiting, seizures and psychosis – and its use is on the rise in the UK

Just one of the brands of ‘legal high’ on the market

Public Health England has issued a national alert to healthcare workers, warning of rising harm from synthetic cannabis use.

Synthetic cannabis, commonly known as ‘spice’, is designed to mimic the effects of herbal cannabis but can cause worrying side effects such as vomiting, seizures, psychosis and, in some cases, death.

It’s been responsible for a string of hospitalisations across England and Wales, and has caused deaths in Germany, Sweden and the US.

In May five Lancaster University students were hospitalised, and two were left critically ill, after smoking the cannabis substitute, and in June a man in Manchester was taken to hospital with severe injuries after taking the drug and falling from a sixth floor balcony.

These drugs are typically developed as liquids in the lab and then sprayed onto plant material and sold in foil bags or added as a powder to cigarettes. They contain strong chemicals, many of which are unregulated in the UK.

GettyLegal highs can be smoked just like marijuana
Legal highs can be smoked just like marijuana

Although a number of formulations were banned in 2009, suppliers continue to tweak the ingredients in order to evade the law. This, in turn, creates challenges for healthcare workers battling to learn how to treat new complications.

Synthetic drugs are often more potent than herbal varieties and can trigger severe symptoms including vomiting, a racing heart, hallucinations and psychosis.

Jeremy Sare from the Angelus foundation, which aims to help educate society about the dangers of ‘legal highs’, told Mirror Online that “synthetic cannabis has been around for a while but has gained in popularity over the past few years”.

He explained that they tend to contain a few different chemicals making them “unpredictable”.

Belfast LiveShould legal highs be banned? Or regulated?
Should legal highs be banned? Or regulated?

Sare is concerned about the fact that these drugs are taken by groups of teenagers at school and says he’s “exasperated by lack of action” and states that “more needs to be done to tackle this issue”.

The Angelus Foundation has written an open letter to the Home Secretary and awaits further debate of the Psychoactive Substances Bill in the House of Lords later today.

In the US, synthetic cannabis is the second most common drug used by children in secondary education. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) reported that over the first six months of 2015, more people used these drugs than in the whole of 2014 – resulting in as many as 15 deaths.

This increasing use and the drug’s ever-changing chemical make up represents a huge challenge for the health service.

Public Health England’s national alert offers hospital staff recommendations for for treating symptoms and early referral of patients to A&E – although the best advice is not to take them.

As noted by one Reddit user, it’s hard even for consumers of the drug to know what they’re getting: “[It’s’] scary stuff, especially since they change the formula every couple months, and no one really knows which blend is in which batch.”

You can find more information about synthetic cannabis from Talk to Frank.