Professor Fabrizio Schifano of the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths issued that chilling warning to the users of so called legal highs. Professor Schifano and his team at St. George’s, University of London have been carrying out research on reports submitted to the University by Coroners. In 2009 there were reports of 12 deaths linked to the various synthetic substances described as legal highs; by 2012 this figure had risen to 97 and in two-thirds of those cases the substance was the direct cause of death. Even these figures may under-estimate the true scale of the situation and do not include the instances of death caused by accidents suffered by users while under the influence of these substances.
The report warns that many legal highs have undergone no human testing and the damage they do is “virtually unknown”. The speed with which new drugs appear and the use of the internet as a means of supply makes the problem even more difficult to control. There has not been sufficient time to examine the long-term effects that these substances have but even in the short-term we at The Providence Project have seen symptoms among users that are similar to those we have seen in class A and B drugs. Paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations as well as acute depression and serious mood swings are among the results we have seen and in many cases the effects become progressively worse with continuing use of the same substance or the use of different substances at the same time.
Here, at The Providence Project, we are aware that it is important to keep abreast of the new addictive dangers that face the young in particular and we are continually developing our programmes of treatment to keep pace. Our therapeutic staff are constantly updating their skills in order to offer care of the highest order to the vulnerable people in our care. We realise that treatment cannot be carried out on a “one size fits all” basis particularly as many treatment models were designed before these type of substances and this demographic of user was a problem. We are proud of our constantly developing programmes and the highly skilled staff that administer them and one of our counsellors is available to talk to you if you feel that someone in your family is affected, or at risk of being affected, by the use of legal highs or synthetic substances.