Suffolk/Essex: More young people are experimenting with ‘designer drugs’ that give ‘legal highs’

Warning that ‘designer drugs’ not necessarily safe

Experts have warned they are seeing an increasing number of young people who are taking strong ‘legal highs’.

Charities and teams who deal with drug strategies in Suffolk and Essex have claimed that some designer drugs being used in the county include chemicals found in soon-to-be-banned substances such as Annihilation.

They have now called for increased education of the dangers the substances pose.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, which represents the county’s councils, police force and primary care trusts, said many youngsters wrongly believe if a drug is legal, it is safe.

“There is a drug that came up in Scotland called Annihilation – about nine people were put in hospital in Scotland in the space of a few months.

“Although we have not seen that specific drug, we have seen that the chemicals in that drug are available under different names and we have been seeing those in Suffolk.

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“Some of them are extremely strong and, in terms of chemical activity, very nasty.”

He added: “People buy these things in a shop and think it is OK, and the term ‘legal high’ gives it a credibility it does not deserve. We want to make people more aware.”

Mr Aalders said that most of the young people referred to drug treatments in the county – last year it was 144 – had problems with cannabis but some referred to legal highs during counselling.

A spokesman for Essex-based drug support charity Open Road said they have seen anecdotal evidence that more people are taking legal highs.

“Increasingly we are seeing more people coming to us for help having taken these new substances.

“Legal highs are sold and marketed using a variety of different names.

“Just because a substance is ‘legal’ doesn’t mean that it’s without risks. Mixing substances, including alcohol, can often have unpredictable effects.”

He added: “There is very little research on some of the legal highs now available. Hallucinations, a false sense of confidence, rash decision-making and increased risk-taking behaviour are all common. Longer-term, impotence, high blood pressure, heart failure, chronic sleep problems, extreme mood swings, paranoia, anxiety, depression and serious mental health problems are all associated with substance misuse.”

Mr Aalders said there are different ways of dealing with the problem, one of which is banning whole families of drugs, as happens in the USA to prevent producers making simple modifications to the chemicals.

But a spokeswoman for drugs charity Hope UK said: “Banning whole ranges of potentially psychoactive substances is not the answer because the would-be chemists responsible for their creation will simply find other ways to satisfy the demand for mind-altering substances.”

Det Ch Insp Steve Mattin said: “We want people to be aware of the dangers of taking drugs, including ‘legal highs’ and work is ongoing with Trading Standards to stop the supply of this type of product in Suffolk.

“These products are not safe and can often contain potentially dangerous chemicals that can result in serious health problems. Anyone who may be concerned about the sale of this type of product is asked to call Suffolk Police on 101.”