Council warns parents about ‘legal highs’ on sale in the borough

Published: Thursday 18th December 14

Wandsworth’s director of public health is urging parents in the borough to be on the lookout for any signs that their children could be taking so-called ’legal highs’ after a quantity were discovered on sale at a shop in Putney.

Houda Al Sharifi issued the warning to parents after 250 packets of novel psychoactive substances were confiscated by trading standards officers during a routine inspection at the shop.

Legal highs are known as novel psychoactive substances and mimic the effects of some Class A drugs. They have the same chemical compound of drugs such as cocaine, MDMA or methamphetamine, but with just a slight alteration in the chemical composition which means they are not currently illegal.

These products are sold in three different forms: powders, smoking mixtures, and capsules or tablets, and are packaged to appear innocently as bath salts, herbs, plant food or research chemicals and labelled ‘not for human consumption’ to avoid identification and detection. 

However, the use of legal highs can mean that vulnerable people are exposed to a succession of compounds that have never been tested for human consumption. Legal highs may trigger pre-existing mental health conditions, as well as being directly linked to incidences of poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and in some cases, death.
 
Mrs Al Sharifi said: “We want to make sure that local parents are fully aware that ‘legal highs’ have been on sale in the borough so that they are able to speak to their children about the dangers and risks posed by these substances. These drugs are only ‘legal‘ because of a loophole in the system – not because they are safe to consume.”

The government is currently considering legislation that will ban all ‘legal highs’ for being unsafe and hazardous to health and to close the current legal loophole that means these products can potentially be sold to teenagers and children.

Meanwhile, if parents are aware that ‘legal highs’ have been on sale locally they can take steps to warn their children about the threat they pose to their health.

There are signs that a parent can look for if they suspect their children are using legal highs: there may be a drop in their school grades or they may stop valuing their academic performance; they may be associating with new friends; there may be a change in their physical appearance; they may demonstrate rebellious behaviour or shut themselves away; they may have a constant runny nose in the absence of a cold and household money may disappear.

Most of these are not unusual signs of being a teenager but parents can compare with their child’s normal behaviour.

If parents are worried they should visit http://www.talktofrank.com/ for more information. Catch 22 also provides a counselling service in the borough for young people that includes drug counselling: they can be contacted on 07770 573131 or by email at YPhealth.office@catch-22.org.uk

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