As well as alcohol and drug use, in recent years a significant new global market has developed; the sale and consumption of new and emerging substances which have become known as ‘Legal Highs’.
Numerous substances of varying synthetic compounds and street names are not sold surreptitiously on street corners, and dark alley ways but are widely sold over the internet, in Headshops and festival traders. Little is known about the chemical make-up of these synthetic substances, (even when labelled, their contents vary and are often a cocktail of Class B drugs and other chemicals), nor about the impact on the individuals who consume these products.
However there is growing concern about known and potential side effects (including severe depression, paranoia, panic attacks, heavy nose bleeds, difficulty breathing and in some cases death), which has lead to recent changes in legislation to make some of these substances illegal. In 2011 alone it was estimated that there were 49 new substances identified across Europe.
It’s deeply worrying for parents as children exposed to these drugs are anything but safe when they go out for the evening and there is considerable peer pressure for them to experiment with a variety of substances which they are under the misconception will give them a safe “high”. Signs to look out for are anxiety, restlessness, agitation, fear, aggression, paranoia, chest pain or collapse.
Parents urgently need to have an open and honest conversation with their children without delay, but it’s often difficult knowing where to start as there is a severe lack of knowledge and significant misinformation. It may even best for two adults to begin the conversation initially talking about how scary this subject is within ear shot of the teenagers, then casually engage them by asking if they know much about these substances known as ‘legal highs’.