Charity calls for action over ‘legal highs’

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A national recovery charity is calling for more research into legal highs, after a report revealed an 800 per cent increase in deaths linked to the substances in three years.

The move by Swanswell follows warnings from North Lincolnshire’s Director of Public Health in recent months of the dangers of so-called ‘legal highs’.

A report by researchers from St George’s University of London showed deaths related to legal highs rose from 10 in 2009 to 68 in 2012. At the end of last year 10 people including a 14-year-old were admitted to hospital within two weeks in North Lincolnshire, after taking them.

At the time, South Axholme GP Dr Kelly Gadsby warned that legal highs are “potentially harmful substances that are only legal because they are so new that they have not yet been classified.”

Frances Cunning, Director of Public Health, issued an urgent warning about the substances “not intended for human consumption” that can cause “risky behaviours and permanent damage to health or even death.”

High may not be high, he warned, but could be a powerful depressant or a strong hallucinogen.

The Government has announced a review of legal highs that will consider widening legislation around enforcement to help protect public health and further restrict supply.

While the long term effects of legal highs are not really known, they can cause drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures and even death. Swanswell wants more understanding of exactly what the risks are.