The hidden dangers of legal highsF or most of the last decade, an average of four or five new legal drugs came on to the market each year. Trade was steady — government efforts were focused on fighting the spread of illegal substances. And then mephedrone appeared on the scene: Bythe drug, now dubbed meow hifh by journalists, had become the fourth most popular drug on the market, after marijuana, legal high sub thai 2 and ecstasy. It was steroid hormone receptors and coregulatory proteins in April of that year, haloperidol injection not before a new market had emerged for online legal highs.
Legal High Special [Eng Subs] (Complete) - D-Addicts
F or most of the last decade, an average of four or five new legal drugs came on to the market each year. Trade was steady — government efforts were focused on fighting the spread of illegal substances. And then mephedrone appeared on the scene: By , the drug, now dubbed meow meow by journalists, had become the fourth most popular drug on the market, after marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy.
It was banned in April of that year, but not before a new market had emerged for online legal highs. In , EU researchers found 49 new legal drugs for sale online. In , 73 were identified; hundreds more were banned. To find out how effective the laws banning these new drugs have been, and how easy it is to buy them, I phone a lab in north-eastern China that supplies websites specialising in legal highs, and ask for bulk prices on synthetic cannabis products.
A well-spoken man apologises immediately on hearing my English accent: I'll send it tomorrow — UK, yes? Business is clearly brisk. He will send it to me via international courier and there will be no danger with customs in the UK, he says breezily. In any case, he can put a false label on the package. But synthetic cannabis is just the beginning. These new drugs don't work if taken orally, so users dilute and spray them using nasal sprays or inhalers; or they drip the liquid on to patterned and perforated blotter paper, passing it off as LSD.
Each gram contains a minimum of 2, doses, making it very easy to take too much. By way of comparison, 1g of MDMA has eight to 10 doses. In less than a year since, researchers in the US have confirmed five deaths from the drug. As it is currently being used by only a small number of dedicated drug experimentalists, that death rate is proportionally high. He had a seizure 30 minutes later and died in hospital. In the same month, Surrey police said that year-old Charlie Barker from Wrecclesham, Farnham, died after attending an illegal party in a tunnel under Chobham Common, where he took a drug — 2CI — through a nasal inhaler.
Toxicology reports are currently unavailable, but it is possible that 25I-NBOMe was responsible for the death of Barker, a talented and popular graffiti artist, since that is a more usual way of taking it. Chris not his real name , a year-old chemist, considers himself an expert user: But recently he ended up in hospital after trying 25I.
At the same time my heart rate was going up and then I started to panic. It all snowballed and there was a to minute blackout. I found myself in the street. They had me by my T-shirt and I wriggled free; I managed to escape and was running around without a T-shirt on. The ambulance arrived and my heart rate was over bpm.
He survived, but was badly shaken. Within just a few months of its appearance, Swedish health authorities had banned it, recording its presence in 14 autopsies. It is unclear whether the users knew what they were taking, or whether the drug was mislabelled and they overdosed.
In a small room in Tooting, south London, John Ramsey looks after the biggest and most varied cache of drugs in the UK. A studious man in his 60s, Ramsey has spent decades collecting more than 27, samples of narcotics, which he has meticulously catalogued, labelled and hidden away in huge sliding drawers. He even analyses the urine collected in specially installed toilets in consenting nightclubs' car parks. His archives document the UK's ever-changing relationship with psychoactive substances over the past three decades.
Ramsey's samples from onwards show an initially baffling evolutionary leap, with dozens more species suddenly appearing. That was the year that mephedrone first went on sale in the UK and the EU. The drug was initially sold online under false pretences, as "plant food", to dodge food and medicine laws. Most of all, it was legal. The drug's legality — or, rather, its convenience and functionality — attracted hundreds of thousands of users in a matter of months.
People absolutely loved it. Well, they still do, actually — Britain is awash with the stuff. Ramsey was among the first scientists to discover the chemical formula of mephedrone and is as conflicted as any rational observer over drug prohibition.
But it is the anti-drugs legislation, in many ways, that has prompted this innovation. The first death attributed to mephedrone in the UK was that of Gabrielle Price , a year-old from Worthing, West Sussex, who became ill at a house party where she had taken the drug together with ketamine.
It was widely reported that she had died as a result. However, a pathologist's report showed the cause of death was broncho-pneumonia following a streptococcal A infection, and that the drugs had played no part. There followed scenes that could have been lifted from Brass Eye: In March , two young men from Winteringham and Scunthorpe, year-old Louis Wainwright and year-old Nicholas Smith, were found dead at their homes.
Once again, the new killer drug was blamed, but toxicology reports found that the pair had actually taken methadone, the potent heroin substitute that can slow breathing dramatically in users with no tolerance to the drug, leading to death.
Though newspapers reported dozens of deaths due to mephedrone, in there were just six instances where the drug was mentioned on death certificates, and it is by no means certain that the drug killed even those users. What is known is that mephedrone has a number of unpleasant side-effects — users can become anxious and paranoid, and bingeing is common — and that it has given rise to an ever-growing market for online legal highs.
After mephedrone was banned, the dealers who had got rich quick cast around for new legal drugs that might capture the nation's imagination — and money. By , the underground online drug culture had gone mainstream. None of the subsequent concoctions has gained the popularity of mephedrone, but the change it effected — of people looking online for legal drugs — is now permanent. Its significance is still playing out.
Meaning they often took too much, too quickly. Winstock also runs drugsmeter. In November and December , of the 7, people who responded online, one in eight of those surveyed had taken legal highs. More than one respondent in five had bought drugs of any kind online, and the first time they had done so was in John Ramsey and I are navigating the warren of St George's medical school.
He is escorting me to his colleagues' laboratories, where they are about to feed animal tissue with legal drugs Ramsey bought online, and from that extrapolate what these novel compounds actually do to humans. I'm expecting stainless steel and porcelain; instead, it looks like a s hackers' den. Next door, the same drug is added to smooth stomach tissue, which contains serotonin receptors. The drug hits; the sliver of stomach muscle contracts, showing that the drug could cause narrowing of the arteries and possible heart problems.
This work yields valuable data that could help emergency wards treating those suffering the effects of the drugs — or produce health information campaigns to dissuade users from risky experimentation. We find them, test them and the government drafts laws guessing at all the possible generic variations that can be made.
Then the manufacturers just change the formula again. On 26 February this year, a raft of these cannabis-resembling compounds were banned, and within days there was a new range of products available containing different compounds. But the problem extends far beyond marijuana substitutes: In comparison with regular drugs, there is hardly any data on the harm these new drugs do.
That doesn't stop many unregulated manufacturers in the UK, China and eastern Europe taking any of these chemicals or dozens more, blending them with inert substances into uncontrolled, unstated doses, and selling them online.
They don't know what's in all those packages. Chris Raby, a masters student working with Ramsey, shows me a densely typed A4 page listing dozens of branded legal highs he's been testing, bought from one Essex headshop — the kind of establishment that sells novelty cannabis pipes and glow-in-the-dark Rizla cigarette papers.
These products, with names such as Barry White and Dutchy, are the most concerning: Manufacturers do not list their contents, or give any dosage instructions, since to do so would render them liable for prosecution. For some, hedonism is not the aim.
One user, a year-old software engineer who suffers from occasional depression, says he self-medicated his way out of his illness using drugs that at the time were legal.
I was able to live a normal life for a year until the government banned [it] in another reactionary response to media scaremongering. The quickest way to ban new drugs in the UK is to place them under a temporary class drug order, where their import and sale are banned by law, but their possession is not. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs , a panel of chemists and medics that makes policy recommendations to government, then has 12 months to analyse the published literature for the drugs and decide whether to ban them.
The system works in the sense that it takes drugs off the market — the first use of the new law in March saw off methoxetamine almost entirely. But it does nothing to prevent new drugs emerging. Some experts believe a longer-term answer could be to give people controlled, licensed, taxed and regulated access to relatively safer compounds that have been studied for decades.
David E Nichols, emeritus professor in pharmacology at Purdue University in Indiana, US, who invented the NBOMe-series of drugs as part of legitimate research into antidepressants, suggests that the government "legalise the safe ones. There is a market for these drugs when other drugs aren't very good. We are seeing a dramatic shift in favour of drug decriminalisation and unlocking the therapeutic potential of psychedelics.
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