What Are Legal Highs?
Legal highs, also known as New Psychoactive Substances, is a term used to refer to synthetic drugs that have been created to mimic the effects of other illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy. Legal highs are often marketed as ‘plant food’ or ‘incense’. They are made so that their chemical structure is slightly different to most illicit substances, and in this way, avoid being labelled ‘illegal’ under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
What Is A Legal High Addiction?
Due to their misleading nickname, many people are unaware of the dangers associated with so-called legal highs. These substances have been designed to imitate other well-known illicit drugs, so the potential to develop an addiction is very high. Addiction to legal highs is characterised by the continuous and compulsive use of the drug, despite any negative consequences that might occur as a result. However, because they are easily accessible and cost very little, they are abused often.
Types Of Legal Highs And Their Effects
The effects of using legal highs will depend on the type of legal high you consume. Most of these substances fall into one of four categories. These include stimulants, psychedelics/hallucinogens, sedatives and synthetic cannabinoids.
Bath salts – Baths salts act as strong stimulants on the central nervous system and are said to produce effects similar to a methamphetamine high and are also considered a much cheaper alternative to cocaine.
Benzo fury – Benzo fury is a synthetic stimulant often used in party environments because it produces feelings of euphoria, excitement and boosts energy. It is often used as a substitute for speed and ecstasy which produce similar effects. Benzo fury can be sold in pill, powder and gel capsule form and addiction often occurs when users engage in continuous use to avoid a comedown.
Spice – When it was originally manufactured, Spice was relatively harmless and produced similar effects to regular cannabis. However, once its popularity grew, production increased, and manufacturers would change its chemical contents to avoid certain drug laws. The Spice available now is extremely potent, highly addictive and carries with it a serious risk of fatal overdose.
Etizolam – Etizolam is a highly addictive tranquiliser that is illegal in the UK but is still approved in other countries. Etizolam is popular because of its ability to make users feel calm and relaxed, but addiction can develop extremely quickly, and continuous use can decrease cognitive function and affect speech and coordination. Because Etizolam is a central nervous system depressant, it can be fatal when mixed with other depressants such as alcohol or opioids.
N-Bomb – N-Bomb, also known as Smiles and N-BOMe, is a potent synthetic hallucinogen that is used as an alternative to LSD. It has become increasingly popular since an extremely small dose can produce effects that last up to 12 hours. These effects include hallucinations and euphoria that are similar to those produced by LSD. When the dose is increased the drug begins to imitate the effects of methamphetamine and taking large doses can be fatal.
Methoxetamine – Methoxetamine is a hallucinogenic drug that is commonly sold as an alternative to drugs like PCP. It works by blocking specific neurotransmitters in the brain resulting in feelings of excitement and relaxation. Methoxetamine is extremely potent, and only a small dose is required for effects to last up to 12 hours. This potency also means that addiction can develop very quickly and carries a high risk of overdose.
The Dangers Of Abusing Legal Highs
Unlike prescription medications and illicit substances, legal highs are purely synthetic. Because of this, there is no real way of knowing exactly what goes into them. The chemicals in synthetic drugs are not tested and, with room for so much experimentation, there is always a risk of experiencing adverse reactions, or even a fatal overdose, when using them.
This uncertainty can cause problems if, in the event of an overdose, medical staff need to treat you. Doctors need to know what patients have taken to give them the appropriate treatment, however, because the chemical make-up of legal highs can change depending on where they are manufactured, it is not always known which medications are needed to counteract the effects of the drug.
What Are The Symptoms Of Legal High Addiction?
As mentioned above, legal highs are synthetic and have been designed to act as alternatives to other illegal drugs including cocaine, ecstasy/MDMA and certain prescription medications. Due to the ever-changing ingredients found in most legal highs, symptoms will vary a lot of the time, and will ultimately depend on which legal high you are taking.
The spectrum of legal high addiction symptoms is very broad. This is because there is no way of knowing how certain chemicals will react together and what effects they might produce. The following are all signs that may indicate that you have developed an addiction to synthetic drugs:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Feeling euphoric
- Impaired judgement
- Trouble with memory
- Difficulty focussing
- Self-medicating with legal highs to relieve stress
- Deterioration of existing medical conditions
- Noticeable changes in personality
- Feeling completely detached from reality and disassociating from surroundings
Behavioural Signs Of Legal High Addiction
- Engaging in risky behaviour as a result of lowered inhibitions
- No longer participating in or enjoying hobbies you previously did
- Being unable to stop despite the negative consequences you’re experiencing
- Being secretive and defensive about your addiction
- Isolating yourself from friends and family
- Associating with others who use legal highs
- Being unable to function or carry out regular daily activities
- Poor attendance and performance at work or school
- Continuing to take legal highs despite the negative consequences
- Underestimating the amount of the drug that you are taking
- No longer caring about your physical appearance and personal hygiene
Physical symptoms of legal high addiction are often more noticeable, and can include:
- Intense cravings for the substance
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Excessive sweating
- High body temperature
- Increased heart rate and heart palpitations
- Impaired co-ordination
- Insomnia or night terrors
- Dramatic weight changes
- Falling unconscious
- Experiencing withdrawals symptoms when you stop taking new psychoactive substances
Treatment For Legal High Addiction
Legal high addiction can have a devastating impact on every aspect of your life; however, the good news is that you can overcome it with the correct treatment and here at Which Rehab we are here to find the right treatment just for you.
If you’ve developed an addiction to legal highs, or any synthetic substances, you will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal once you stop taking them. These symptoms can be psychological as well as physical and because of this, supervised detox is always recommended.
Continuous abuse of synthetic drugs leads to a build-up of toxins in the body. The detox process is the body’s natural way of flushing these toxins from its system. If you undergo a medical detox, you will be offered medications to alleviate any uncomfortable symptoms you might be experiencing.
In conjunction with supervised detox, residential rehabs offer specialised treatment therapies to help you overcome the psychological aspects of addiction and allow you to identify any potential problems that may have contributed to it.
While it’s possible to attend free drug services for detox medications, residential rehab provides all phases of treatment under one roof, reducing the risk of early relapse which can be fatal after a detox.
Some rehabs also offer outpatient treatment which allows clients to attend every day for therapy and counselling sessions. Outpatient treatment is recommended for people with less severe addictions, however, if a medical detox is needed then residential rehab will be the most effective in this case.
Support groups are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals who are also on their recovery journey. Surrounding yourself with support during your recovery is extremely important to ensure you maintain your sobriety. There are different types of support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Smart Recovery.
Are legal highs legal?
So-called legal highs and psychoactive substances are banned in the UK and supplying these drugs can result in a prison sentence. However, this has always been difficult to implement as it’s difficult to prove whether a substance is psychoactive.
Are legal highs addictive?
Most legal highs are extremely potent and only require very small doses to produce effects that can last up to 12 hours. For this reason, the potential for abuse and addiction is very high. They are often used as an alternative to other illicit drugs that are more expensive and sometimes more difficult to get hold of.
How are synthetic drugs different to other illicit drugs?
The chemical make-up of synthetic drugs is different to the illicit drugs they are designed to mimic. This difference in structure is what allows manufacturers to market them as legal. They are sold to people under the pretence of being safer and more acceptable than ‘regular’ drugs. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the contents of most synthetic drugs, it is difficult to know for sure what the long-term side effects can be. Most other illicit drugs contain the same active ingredients, and although they can sometimes be laced with other substances, their basic structure does not change.
Can you overdose on legal highs?
Yes, legal highs carry a high risk of overdose. This is because their chemical structure changes so often and there is no real way of knowing what these new psychoactive drugs contain.