I have two teenage children who have been through a school system that claims to educate them about the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse. In year five of primary school they both graduated from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education programme and have regular PHSE classes at secondary school.
So when I quizzed them recently about legal highs I was surprised how little they knew. They were able to name a few (Spice, Bubble Bud and Khat) but had no idea about the potential dangers associated with using these substances.
Last month we published an article discussing the management of legal highs or party drugs. These drugs produce stimulant effects similar to those of cocaine and ecstasy and are legal, cheap and widely available on our high streets.
The author of the article, David Solomon, described the problems of legislating to prevent the sale of these dependency forming drugs; as one formula is made illegal, manufacturers simply make minor molecular changes to the make-up of the drug and manage to circumvent the legislation.
While a game of cat and mouse is played out between policy makers and manufacturers people’s lives are at risk as user of these drugs associate the word “ legal” with “safe”.
People are exposing themselves to side effects including reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, seizures and even death. While users of these drugs may appear naïve it is easy to see how they can be dragged into believing they are safe when the law appears to be on the side of the manufacturers. This makes the health education message more difficult to deliver effectively.
As the use of legal highs increases, health professionals are likely to see more and more patients attending emergency services with complications. We all have an important role in educating the public about the dangers. Our schools and colleges also need to ensure that they are providing young people with up to date and relevant information about using these substances.
So would you feel confident discussing the dangers with patients and signpost them for specialist help if this is required?
If not, you may find the following article useful. I certainly did.
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