By Ian Dipple 14/08 Updated: 14/08 11:13
YOUNG people across the Vale are being warned they are playing with their lives as the number using so-called 'legal highs' continues to grow.
The rise in popularity of the drugs mean only cannabis and alcohol cause young people more problems according to Worcestershire Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT).
A warning is now being issued about the dangers of using the psychoactive substances which have been chemically altered to get around existing drug laws but mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy.
They are widely available at music festivals and on the internet but will not be called 'legal highs'. Some will be called by their product name - such as Ivory Wave or Benzo Fury - some use their chemical label such as Dimethocaine and others will have slang terms such as 'Bubble'.
Although classed as 'legal highs' they will often be labelled as research chemicals, plant food or even pond cleaner to get around current medicines legislation which makes it illegal for them to be sold or advertised as for 'human consumption'.
There is also a growing amount of evidence the substances are far from harmless and carry similar health risks to drugs like cocaine and speed and noted risks include
reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, excited or paranoid states, coma, seizures, and death, all of which are heightened when combined with alcohol or other drugs.
Alan Ford, manager of SPACE, a substance abuse service for people aged 18 and under, said: "They can contain substances that are not legal and cannot be assumed to be safe as we know nothing about the long-term effects - let alone short-term.
"This group of substances has become a particular concern for the service as we are seeing the ill effects, both physical and psychological, they are having on young people. We are concerned this problem may get worse as they are easily accessible through shops in our town centres and online over the internet.
"The rate at which new substances appear on the market is increasing. There has been a year on year increase for the last three years. This year looks certain to continue this trend and establish a record level, with the possibility of a new substance emerging every week."
Debbie Herbert, programme lead for Young People for the DAAT, added: "It is important for parents and young people to be aware of the risks of 'legal' highs and particularly the danger of the often 'unknown' ingredients and their potential side effects.
"The message to parents is - if you don't know what the substance is, your son or daughter could be at serious risk by using it."
Anyone concerned about their own drug or alcohol should contact SPACE in confidence on 0800 169 60 64. Anyone concerned about someone else's drug or alcohol use should call Pressure Point on 0800 652 9664 or visit www.worcestershire-daat.org.uk for more information.
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