●● WITH Sally Rogers, lead nurse and member of the NHS Eastern Chesire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Governing Body
THIS week I was to talk about legal highs, a problem that eastern Cheshire is by no means immune to and one that still shrouded in much confusion. A lot of the misconceptions surrounding legal highs can be attributed to their name – as in fact, many of them are not legal at all and a lot of drugs that are sols as legal highs actually contain ingredients that are illegal to possess.
Legal highs are substances that have similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine and cannabis and can carry serious health risks.
The chemicals they contain have in most cases never been used before in drugs for human consumption.
This means they haven’t been tested to show they are safe and users can never be certain what they are taking and what the effects might be.
Other risks include the fact that chemical ingredients in a so-called legal high can be changed without you knowing, so the risks are unpredictable, and even drugs that look similar or have similar names may be of varying strengths and have different effects.
Legal highs can also cause serious side effects, such as paranoia, coma, seizures and, in rare cases, even death.
Indeed, four people in Cheshire including a 16-year-old girl, were hospitalised in June last year after taking the potentially lethal legal high ‘Vertex’.
Vertex is often sold as incense, but lab tests have confirmed that some samples contain a synthetic cannabis called AB-CHMINACA (AB-C), which is already illegal in the US and has been linked to a number of fatalities across Europe, with symptoms including delirious ranting and very high body temperatures.
While Vertex is currently ‘legal’, this may well change, as was the case with drugs previously sold as legal highs - such as mephedrone (meow meow or Mcat), napthyron, BZP and GBL - which are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance misuse, help is available in eastern Cheshire. Visit www.cwp. nhs.uk/services/2540cheshire-east-substancemisuse-service or call 01625422100.