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Middle-class professionals are turning to legal highs 'to avoid being classed as illegal drug users'
Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, a leading consultant psychiatrist, said many educated young people mistakenly think the drugs are not harmfulSays people use them to avoid stigma of drugs such as cocaine and heroin
His specialist hospital unit has been inundated with referrals from those taking legal highs
15:44 GMT, 27 December 2012
An increasing number of young professionals are taking legal highs to avoid being classed as illegal drug users (posed by model)
An increasing number of young professionals are taking legal highs to avoid being classed as illegal drug users, a leading expert has warned.
Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, founder of Britain’s biggest clinic dedicated to helping those with drug problems, said many educated young people mistakenly believe they are not doing themselves any harm.
While the number of heroin and cocaine users has been steadily decreasing, clinics are witnessing a rise in problems associated with a wide array of new chemical substances flooding the market, the Daily Telegraph reported.
Dr Bowden-Jones, a consultant psychiatrist, said his unit at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital had been so inundated by referrals that a second unit would be opened in the New Year.
Although so-called legal highs are widely available online and in clubs, they can be hazardous to health.
He told the newspaper: ‘Since opening we have treated around 350 people for a range of problems associated with a range of drugs. The sorts of substances we have seen include ketamine, GBL, mephedrone and crystal meth which are all banned, but also a vast array of legal highs.
‘These are very different people from heroin addicts. There is a misconception that because these are recreational drugs they are safe, but in some ways the unknown aspect means they might be just as dangerous as illegal substances.
‘Users of club drugs and legal highs will often say “heroin is a dangerous and addictive drug and I would never use it”, but they don’t have the same attitude when it comes to club drugs and legal highs. It is as if they don’t want the stigma of using illegal drugs.'
He said that part of the problem was that every time the Government outlaws a particular drug, the formula only has to be changed slightly for it not be illegal any more.
Hester Stewart died after taking the drug GBL, which has since been banned. Her mother Maryon said there were more than 50 new legal high drugs this year
Legal highs that have been banned by
the Government include ketamine, mephedrone and GBL, but campaigners
warn that a new legal high hits the streets every week.
LEGAL HIGHS CURRENTLY CAUSING CONCERN:
ANNIHILATION AND BLACK MAMBA: Very strong herbal mixtures which contain a synthetic form of cannabis. They can give a short, intense hallucinatory trips but often cause people to vomit, experience headaches and feel dizzy and paranoid. A spokesman for the Angelus Foundation, which aims to highlight the dangers of legal highs, told MailOnline: ‘Annihilation and Black Mamba have similar effects to cannabis but are much, much stronger. People often try taking the same amount as they would with cannabis and it makes them very ill.’
BENZO FURY: A stimulant which gives a powerful rush and causes the heart to race and blood pressure to rise. It can also have psychedelic effects and cause hallucinations. It gives the taker a sense of euphoria and well-being and suppresses appetite. But it has also been linked to heart attacks, sleep disruption and depression, if taken frequently it can cause paranoia, anxiety and psychotic episodes.
5IAI: Legal substitute for MDMA which causes takers to experience a sense of euphoria, increased self-confidence and the desire to dance. Very little research has been carried out into the drug so the potential dangers are not known. The Angelus Foundation spokesman added: ‘This is a seriously dangerous drug. I don’t think there have yet been any fatalities but lots of people have been hospitalised after taking it.’
NITROUS OXIDE/LAUGHING GAS: Used medically as a mild anaesthetic. It gives an out- of-body effect and has strong, short-term intoxicating effects. It also makes people laugh and can cause dizziness and temporary paralysis. Exposure to very large amounts of the gas starves the body of oxygen and can cause brain damage, heavy use can cause addiction.
For more information on the dangers of legal highs, visit: www.whynotfindout.org
Bowden-Jones believes some of the success of the clinic is due to the
fact people can go to directly rather than having to be referred through
their GP. It is possible to self-refer via mobile phone, he added,
thereby avoiding the stigma around drug treatment.
October, the Government’s drug advisory body urged ministers to outlaw a
substance sold as ‘Annihiliation’ which is available legally on
Currently it is marketed as a ‘herbal incense’ and sold widely in high street ‘head shops’ and online.
in Glasgow warned the drug – designed to mimic the effects of cannabis
– had left nine people in hospital in the last three months.
Doctors have warned it can lead to paranoia, aggression and an increased heart rate.
Users have also been found to self-harm after taking the drug, suffer numbness in their legs and been left unconscious.
Maryon Stewart, whose medical student daughter Hester died after taking a legal high called GBL, said: ‘There were 49 new substances last year and there are even more this year.'
Ms Stewart, who launched a charity called the Angelus Foundation to raise awareness of the dangers, added: ‘Kids are putting themselves in danger without even realising it. They are called legal highs which implies they are safe but that’s really not right.’
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has also warned of the growing trend for inhaling nitrous oxide – also known as laughing gas – and helium.
Just this month, an inquest heard
that 35-year-old Jeremy Glasspool, from Watford, died after smoking a legal high
that caused his lungs to bleed, starving his brain of oxygen.
In his flat were seven packets of synthetic cannabis, known as a 'legal high', and evidence he had been smoking it.
The substance is made in a laboratory and mimics the effects of smoking
cannabis, but is undetectable by normal blood tests and is freely, and
legally, available to buy on the internet.
And earlier this year, a coroner called for tougher laws on ‘legal highs’ after a 20-year-old student took one and died just one month before it was outlawed.
Grant Mace was found dead in the sea after taking methoxetamine – known as MXE or mexxy – billed as a ‘safe’ alternative to ketamine.
Mr Mace, a student at the University of Plymouth, died after taking the hallucinogenic drug on March 4th. He was found floating dead in the sea the next day and it is unclear if he went swimming or fell in.
But the inquest heard the cause of death was drowning after the drug had caused Grant to 'lose control of his mind and body'.
Tragically, MXE was made illegal just four weeks later.