After the last 12 months of media coverage, it is impossible to have not heard of the new ‘legal highs’ that are sweeping the nation and destroying the youth of today.
Cheap, easy to acquire and most importantly, permitted by law, these drugs have stormed their way into youth culture. Legal highs can be easily bought at a relative bargain over the internet, especially if purchased in bulk.
Up until recently, mephedrone was a huge hit in this scene until it was criminalized to a class B drug in the UK.
Chemically these are similar to their illegal counterparts, in fact they are designed specifically to be structurally similar to the illegal drug they try to imitate. They vary just enough to not be held under the same laws.
The major problem with legal highs is that they are completely untested and uncontrolled – they could even carry larger health risks than the illegal drugs.
On a recent BBC program George Lamb investigated legal highs, and spoke to one of the UK’s leading toxicologists, Dr John Ramsey of St. George’s, University of London. He said: “Illegal drugs (e.g. MDMA, cannabis, cocaine) have been around for 20 years and hundreds of millions of doses have been taken worldwide. The health risks are known. I would rather somebody take MDMA than these legal ones [drugs]“. Many other doctors on the program were in agreement.
The new legal highs, and their long and short term effects on the body are completely unknown. Doctors are much more uncertain about how to treat somebody who has taken a legal high.
The new legal options have not been tested as they are not sold as drugs, and so do not have to go through the same rigorous tests as pharmaceutical drugs sold commercially do by law. This loophole allows the drugs to be sold easily, branded as ‘not for human consumption’.
When the drug becomes commonly used and horror stories appear in the media, it will be put under scrutiny, and it is more likely to be banned.
Since the recent ban of mephedrone, there is a new legal high that may take its place – 5,6-Methylenedioxy-2-aminoindane (MDAI). It is from the same family of drugs as mephedrone and MDMA (ecstasy) and is said to have the same effects of euphoria, although not as intense. This lesser effect explains the obscurity of MDAI until the banning of the more preferred mephedrone. The effects are also said to include mild hallucinogenic properties similar to that LSD.
Appropriate forums discussing the topic, such as www.partyvibe.com and www.drugs-forum.com, do not hold MDAI in the same high esteem as MDMA due to its less intense effects.
However due to the ease of purchase, the cost and the start of summer and the festival season, MDAI may just be making its way onto the headlines in a few months time. Business is booming.