Legal Highs Overview

Legal highs are a group of substances that are abused in order to get an effect or high similar to that of illicit drugs, but have not yet been made illegal due to their other regular uses in everyday life, or due to them falling through a legal loophole. These include over the counter medications, everyday substances like solvents, or ‘synthetic drugs’. Often these synthetic substances are used to mimic the effects of controlled substances but are sold as incense, plant feeders or other guises.

Some begin to use these legal highs thinking that they are a less dangerous alternative to typical street drugs, but this is a misconception. Legal highs are in many cases just as damaging and addictive as illicit drugs, if not more.

Due to the legal nature of these drugs, it can be hard to track their use, but reports have shown that Ireland has the highest rate of legal high abuse among young people in Europe and overall, Ireland one of the highest drug overdose rates in Europe, with legal highs representing a large part of this. (RTE.ie, 2015)

Legality

One of the main loopholes exploited by the suppliers of these substances is that they are not declared “controlled drugs” under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. Despite efforts made by law enforcement in Ireland to outlaw these legal highs such as closing ‘head shops’ in 2010 and banning certain drugs like, suppliers find ways of circumventing the law by constantly coming up with new types of drugs that haven’t been banned yet. Invariably, these new substances are not properly tested and are usually of low quality which greatly increases the risk of causing harm to the users. (Drugs.ie, 2017)

Dangers of Legal Highs

Many legal highs can have irreversible long-term effects on users. The use of solvents, for example, can be potentially lethal at first use by causing cardiac abnormalities or sudden loss of consciousness, but regular use also carries long-term effects such damage to the brain, kidney, and liver. Similarly to illicit drugs, legal highs can exacerbate lingering mental health issues in users. People with conditions such as depression and disorder schizophrenia are particularly at risk. (Drugs.ie, 2017)

Because of the inconsistent nature of legal highs, there is no real way of knowing what the effects of the drug will be, how long they will last, and how much to take. Additionally, there can be dangerous consequences when used alongside alcohol or other drugs as there is no way of knowing how the substances will react when mixed together. (Hitti, 2017)

Addiction

Legal highs can be just as addictive and damaging as illegal street drugs. Despite often being sold as ‘Herbal’ or ‘Organic’ alternatives, there is nothing natural about synthetic drugs. The chemicals used are often untested and potentially very dangerous. Medication addiction, particularly painkiller abuse, can develop quickly in users because frequent use not only forms a psychological dependence, but a physical one too. Even legal highs such as solvents, while not always associated with physical addiction, can create psychological addictions quite quickly.

(Drugs.ie, 2017)

Treatment at the Rutland Centre

At the Rutland, we treat all patients the same regardless of their addiction. With years of experience enabling our clients to overcome substance abuse and an 86% abstinence rate, we can help you or a loved one beat their legal high addiction. Allow us to help you today - call (01) 494 6358. You may also want to visit our treatment services page for a list of the various treatments we have available.

References

RTE.ie. (2015). 'Gardaí powerless in fight against legal highs'. [online] Available at: https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2015/1117/742625-clockwork-orange/

Hitti, M. (2017). Prescription Pain Medication Addiction: 7 Myths. [online] WebMD. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/prescription-painkiller-addiction-7-myths#1

Drugs.ie. (2017). Legal Highs and Head Shops. [online] Available at: http://www.drugs.ie/resourcesfiles/guides/Legal_highs_%26_headshops_leaflet.pdf

Drugs.ie. (2017). Solvents - Drug and Alcohol Information and Support in Ireland - Drugs.ie. [online] Available at: http://www.drugs.ie/drugtypes/drug/solvents_a_category_itself 

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