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What Are Legal Highs And Are They Safe?

Carrie Westengate

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The latest wave of drugs that are still legal in many countries are known as Legal Highs. But what are they and are they safe?

So called Legal highs will consist of chemical substances that are said to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy for example. There is very little research as to what the effects are when used with or without other substances such as alcohol. However, these are readily available in the High Street. That said, even the products in the High Street may have different compositions depending on the supplier. Add to that the black market suppliers producing a mix of unknown substances than it's a real concern for many parents today.

Although some Legal High component substances have now been made illegal, there is very little medical research available on many of these products.

In order to make them ‘legal’ they are only so if they are sold as something else (e. g. plant food, salts, incense). Therefore it is reasonable to assume that these substances are not safe. Some well known branded Legal Highs have been already been associated with emergency hospital admissions with a range of outcomes. The effects are broadly categorised as psychedelics/hallucinogens, downers/sedatives or stimulants. But any effects will vary in intensity between individuals, particularly if on any medication.

Psychedelics are (akin to the effects of LSD) and will alter perceptions and can lead to hallucinations. This may lead to panic attacks and erratic behaviour and a lack of judgment inadvertantly leading to self harming.

Downers (said to act like diazepam/valium) are supposed to lead to feelings of euporia and make you sleepy. However, the lethargic feelings can lead to danger particularly if they lead to unconsciousness or when mixed with alcohol. Stimulants (similar affects to speed and cocaine) will energise and make the user very talkative and over confident. Panic attacks are also likely.

Stimulants put an extra strain on the nervous and immune systems as well as the heart. Although some manufacturers add a warning label to the packets, it goes without question that if people go as far as to buy these, they are most likely going to use them. IMHO peer pressure will often lead to those who would not normally take drugs to take these.

One thing that should also be remembered with Legal Highs, although it may not yet be an offence to use some of them, it is illegal to drive while under the influence. Such influence may extend to the following day and if caught, you will be prosecuted. Remember, just because a product is claimed to be legal, it may not be safe or indeed legal if it includes a banned substance. Some shops may still be carrying older stock that contains substances that are now banned.

Forensic toxicology has and will continue to be used to establish the use of any substance that may or have led to illegal behaviour. For more on the use of forensics in many fields, visit Please note, that the information above has been obtained from personal research, to the best of my knowledge it is correct at the time of publishing this article.


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