29/05/2014 - Permalink

New survey aims to understand local and national impact of ‘legal highs’

Related topics: Health

Shropshire’s public health experts are calling for anyone aged 18 years and over with experience of novel psychoactive substances (popularly known as ‘legal highs’) to take part in a new national survey.

The Legal High National Online Survey was launched in March 2014 to find out people’s experiences and views of this new form of substance use, and has just published its early findings.

People in Shropshire are being encouraged to take part in the anonymous study, which will help inform what future services and provision is needed should people start to have adverse experiences or find they have become dependent.

The survey is confidential and can be completed at www.mylegalhigh.org.

Karen Calder, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for health, said:

“The initial findings from the Legal High National Online Survey provide valuable information about the dangers and risks associated with the use of these drugs.

“It is really important that people in Shropshire complete the survey so that we can continue to gain vital information about people’s experiences and views of this new form of substance use.”

Professor Rod Thomson, Director of public health with Shropshire Council, said:

“It is important that people remember just because a substance is not illegal doesn’t mean it is safe to use or there will be no adverse consequences. We encourage people to speak to a doctor or other qualified health professional to get non-judgemental health advice about any licit or illicit high substance.”

The Legal High National Online Survey is funded by Buckinghamshire Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) and is being carried out by the Centre for Drug Misuse Research (CDMR), Glasgow.

Between 2009 and 2012, there was a 600% increase in the number of deaths associated with New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) in England, and almost a 400% increase in NPS-related deaths in Scotland between 2010 and 2012.

Further information

1. The survey has two overarching aims:

(a) to provide individuals who take legal highs, or are considering taking legal highs, with information on which to base their decisions, and;
(b) to provide health and education services, detailed information about the local prevalence, drivers and consequences of NPS use, and local attitudes towards using NPSs.

This information will ensure local services better meet the needs of people who present at their services with mental and physical health issues relating to their use of NPSs/legal highs.

2. The initial findings of the survey are:

From the first 100 users of Novel Psychoactive Substances:
• 65% said they had experienced heart palpitations at least sometimes following drug use.
• 28% had experienced heart palpitations many times following use of Novel Psychoactive Substances.

Many respondents indicated they would be reluctant to contact health services if they experienced a health problem after taking a legal high:
• 55% said they would be unlikely to call for an ambulance.
• 45% said they would be unlikely to visit a hospital A&E department if they experienced a health problem after taking a legal high.
• By contrast, 81% said they would be likely to ask a close friend for help.

3. The survey can also be followed on Twitter @Mylegalhigh and Facebook (mylegalhigh).