Community workers educated on dangers around ‘legal highs’

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This week community and youth workers across the Limavady Borough received training on the problems associated with ‘Legal Highs’ in the community.

The Limavady Policing and Community Safety Partnership initiative - delivered by the Western Health and Social Care Trust – aims to increase awareness of new drugs available in our community and explores the risks and harms associated with taking them.

A legal high is a drug (a substance taken to produce an altered state of mind) that is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act and is therefore legal to possess.

Some of the negative effects of taking the drugs include nose bleeds, heart palpitations, limbs turning blue, or changes in behaviour or personality.

However, the term legal high can be misleading because most of the substances are regulated by the Medicines Act, which makes it illegal to sell, supply or advertise them for human consumption.

The substances are generally bought from head shops or from internet sites.

Many suppliers use descriptions such as bath salts, incense or plant food. They claim these substances are “not intended for human consumption” as a way of getting around the drugs laws.

Project coordinator with the Glens Community Association, Tina McCloskey, praised Limavady PCSP for raising awareness of this issue.

“It is so important to learn more about the dangers associated with Legal Highs,” she said.

“Professionals working in the area of alcohol and drugs in the community report that many young adults in Northern Ireland are taking Legal Highs, and that some young people of post-primary school age are also taking these drugs.

“I commend Limavady PCSP for offering such an important workshop so that we as community workers can signpost people to appropriate services.”

Back in 2010 a member of the PSNI’s crime team for the Limavady area warned that new legal highs were being sold in place of the now banned drug mephredrone.

Constable Steven Houston has said the copy-cat highs being sold in the North West may be just as dangerous as the once legal alternative. Speaking last week at Limavady DPP meeting along with Area Commander Stephen Cargin, Constable Houston said the police would like to see temporary bans placed on legal substances until research is carried out on it’s effects.

“Anyone found with a bag of white powder will have it seized, be arrested and we will deal later with the fact it may be legal. What we use to have was people carrying a white bag of cocaine saying it was mephredrone. Now we have people with a white bag of mephredrone saying it’s NRG-1. This is now being sold as the legal alternative,” said Constable Houston.

He added that some new substances were posing a higher risk of overdose because of their “slow reacting” effects. He added that the PSNI would like to see a temporary ban on legal highs such as NRG-1.