Rise of Legal Highs #legalhighs

shutterstock_218274139There has been a disturbing global increase in New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – often called ‘legal highs’ – and nowhere, currently, are they more prevalent than in the UK.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UK has the biggest market for legal highs in the whole of the EU. The World Drug Report states that 670,000 Britons aged 15-24 have tried them at least once.

Legal highs often have similar effects to cannabis, heroin and amphetamines, and are sold as uppers, downers or hallucinogenics on the UK high street and over the internet. Since legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption, they are often sold as plant food, incense, or salts. The trouble is that buyers cannot be certain what the product will contain, and adverse effects cannot be predicted.  These substances are not controlled yet because there is not enough information on them to base a decision. However, ‘legal highs’ are increasingly being researched to identify the dangers and determine if they should be made illegal.

Legal highs have been directly associated with anti-social behaviour, causing some of the same problems as illegal drug use. Some users of legal highs steal to get the money for their fix, and drug-induced behaviour often leads to criminal activity and endangerment.

In Morriston, Swansea, “new psychoactive substances have become the biggest cause of anti-social behaviour”, Councillor Andrea Lewis said. “We had young people behaving erratically, literally running out into the street into oncoming traffic.”

Police forces in Wales have seen incidents involving legal highs increase from 18 in 2012 to twenty times that many: 371 in 2014.

A BBC News investigation discovered that legal highs can be more addictive than some illegal drugs – and are getting stronger. Benzofuran and Mephedrone have even been banned. However, as soon as certain substances are made illegal, new ones are produced and on sale.

Some people are seriously affected by legal highs, and doctors are concerned.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of people going into mental health units with acute psychotic episodes after having taken some of these legal substances,” said Julia Lewis, Clinical Director for adult and specialist mental health services. “We are hearing of quite young people having heart attacks; I treated one 17-year-old boy who’d had a small heart attack on one of these substances.”

To receive help and signposting to organisations offering advice and support with drug issues, contact the BBC Action Line on 08000 680 118

Or contact FRANK, the drugs information agency directly, 24/7/365, on 0300 123 6600

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.


What’s up Doc? Young people spurn GPs

shutterstock_118165540Young Britons are turning their backs on GP surgeries. Increasing numbers of 18-to 34-year-olds go straight to overstretched A&E departments because they cannot get suitable appointments with their family doctor. It seems that health services are failing to match modern lifestyles.

A report by Citizens Advice Bureau finds that people aged 18 to 34 are far less likely than older people to be able to see a GP when they need to. Instead, they are more than twice as likely to attend A&E departments or walk-in centres as those aged 55 and over.

Despite successive governments’ promises to make GP services more accessible, the NHS still fails to cater for a working population wanting family doctors to be available at times to suit busy working lives. Young adults were more than twice as likely to be unable to secure a GP appointment at a convenient time than older people. 14% of 18-34-year-olds could not see a GP the last time they tried to make an appointment, compared with 6% aged 55 or over. One in eight (13%) of younger adults did not get any professional help for a health problem after failing to see their GP.

Also, levels of satisfaction and trust in the GP service were dramatically lower amongst young people than amongst pensioners. 30% of young adult respondents said their experience of GPs was “very good”, compared with 64% of those over 75.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said failure to treat younger people outside hospital would add to the financial pressures on the NHS. “GP services need to keep up with 21st-century lifestyles. With many younger adults out at work, it can be difficult for them to get an appointment with a GP, particularly at a convenient time. As a result, some people are struggling to access the medical advice they need.

“It is in the NHS’s interest to get primary healthcare for younger adults right and ensure services fit around busy working lives. A failure to meet their needs piles more pressure on budgets,” Guy said.

Citizens Advice found that young people often prefer to use walk-in centres instead of GPs, but nearly a quarter of these seven-day-a-week, 24-hour centres had closed since 2010.

Sitting for hours in the early morning with the phone on redial doesn’t suit young people with busy lives. It’s easier to call into hospital out of office hours if they feel ill. Sadly, too many young people give up and do not seek professional help at all. When their health deteriorates, it adds further pressure to NHS budgets.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We’re giving the NHS £150m to develop new ways of improving GP access for millions of people, including 8am to 8pm appointments seven days a week, as well as email and Skype consultations. Next month commuters will also be able to register at a surgery near work.”

The data from this research will inflame the fraught debate over the future of the NHS: a key issue in this year’s general election campaign.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.