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Warning over rise in 'legal highs'


The last week has seen an increase in the number of people suffering the effects of “legal highs”, doctors have warned.

Around 22 people have been treated by NHS Lothian, which takes in Edinburgh, during the period.

The health board said that the number treated is usually significantly lower.

The term “legal highs” is used to describe the abuse of substances that are designed for normal everyday use.

Those misusing the substances may experience fits, drowsiness, loss of bowel control, vomiting. Abuse could eventually lead to paranoia, kidney failure and hallucinations.

Jim Sherval, specialist in public health at NHS Lothian, said: “The chemicals used in legal highs change all the time, so people can never be certain what they are actually taking and what the effects might be.

“In most cases, the products have not been tested, so little is known about how toxic they are.

“It is important that people understand that just because a substance is legal or claimed to be legal, it doesn’t mean it is safe. We need to get across the message that these legal highs pose a real danger.”


Readers' comments (15)

  • Stupid people, doing stupid things. People will never change.

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  • Nor it seems will the nauseating self righteous

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  • Or the pompous bleeding hearts anonymous.

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  • Anonymous | 12-Aug-2010 10:00 am

    I totally agree, to judge people without understanding their personal circumstances is pathetic and very unprofessional. If only we could all be as perfect as Mike professes to be.

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  • How is the air up their from your high horses? You're all as judgemental as you say I am, yet you hide behind a pompous air of self righteousness.

    Okay, a large number of these 'legal high' users do it for what is called recreational purposes.

    They CHOOSE to inject what is effectively poison into their bodies. Isn't that the definition of stupid? I do not need to know the reason they did it to know that it is stupid to do so!

    You can go on excusing peoples behaviours all you like, but at the end of the day it is personal CHOICE to do things such as this, stupid as it is, and they have to take responsibility for that and accept the consequences.

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  • Mike, you don't seem to have any idea about people do you? A very large amount of people attending hospital are there because they have done something that someone with more sense or knowledge or will power or education would not do. That is how people are. They are not "Stupid people, doing stupid things" they are just people. Taking a legal high is no more stupid than bunjee jumping or parachute jumping, or motor racing or mountain climbing or joining the army. We all have different levels of acceptable risk and just because we don't choose the same risks as they do does not make them stupid.
    Were you not taught anything about empathy during your training?
    I presume you are not on your high horse becuase that would be stupid and you may get hurt if you fall off.

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  • Anonymous | 13-Aug-2010 3:26 pm, so deciding to poison yourself with drugs is on par with joining the army and making something of your life? I'm afraid you have just lost all credibility with your ridiculous argument. You cannot compare the two in any way shape or form.

    And yes, my empathy is reserved for those who have got cancer/developed alzheimers/broke a leg/been stabbed etc etc etc. Not those who CHOOSE to inject themselves with drugs, which IS stupid, no matter what reason you try and justify it with.

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  • the majority of ordinary people poison themselves every day with one thing or another. everyone has the right to enjoy their life regardless of whether people like mike might approve of it or not.
    I find mike's attitude truly shocking in someone supposedly concerned with the care of people. It leaves an unpleasant taste for me and I'm not sure how well it sits with the obligation of doing you best to promote or ensure the wellbeing of your patients, or people in your care.
    legal highs doesn't automatically mean injecting something either.
    I also think the previous poster has a point in comparing dangerous urges and activities including joining the military. It's not all about the altruism. Everyone has reasons for choosing what they do and as nurses it's not our job or place to judge those reasons. No it's not mike. it contravenes the code of conduct and brings the profession into disrepute. I hope you feel able to address this.

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  • I can address that.

    First of all my personal views do not impinge on my practice in any way. I can fully comply with the code of professional conduct in work despite personal views. That is one of the definitions of professionalism.

    Second of all, the above anon (please all of you get a name, it gets very difficult to keep up) does not in any way have a point! It is completely insulting to compare those who follow their vocation in the military with the idiots who decide to take drugs. Both are dangerous, fair enough, but that is not enough to make a comparison of the two! And I say that as an ex soldier.

    To be fair I take your point that taking drugs (legal or otherwise) does not always involve injecting.

    And yes people DO poison themselves every day, but an abundance of the behaviour does not make it any less stupid, and do you really think 'enjoying themselves' is enough justification for doing this?

    But the taking of ANY of these drugs is inherently stupid, tell me why it is not? I would love to hear your own arguments for that? Talking just about these legal highs for a second, people are essentially taking household poisonous substances to get high. Would you really not say that drinking a bottle of bleach or lawn feed wasn't stupid? C'mon! But the same IS true of illegal substances too. And don't go down the route of excusing behaviour, everyone has problems, not everyone chooses to take drugs. What about the people who do it 'just to get off their face?' (to quote a very stupid man I once met!)

    Now I do not disagree that people have the right to choose to do this, I am a firm believer in personal choice, just as it is my right to hold personal beliefs on others choices (and judgement is a natural human behaviour by the way). However, the problem comes in where those who make that CHOICE, then expect us, ie the NHS, to fix the problem for them.

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  • I agree with the 2 anonymous writers above, I think Mikes comments are dreadful and I doubt very much that someone with such strong views is able to put those feelings aside when dealing with such patients. Their care must be compromised to some extent. And Mike you need to get your facts right: "people are essentially taking household poisonous substances to get high" this is not always the case, both opium and cannabis have been legal highs in this country before and some very intelligent, well respected people have taken them and other drugs and managed to lead productive lives.

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