Young People and drugs – an evolving landscape

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In May, it was widely reported that two people had died after taking drugs at the Mutiny Festival in Portsmouth. A potential 13 other people were also taken to hospital, although it wasn’t entirely clear if all were drug related. One of them was in a critical condition. The organisers put out a 'harm prevention alert' following the deaths and  released a statement confirming the deaths, warning that a "bad batch" of drugs were being supplied within the festival. Presumably the organisers assumed that all the non-fatal drugs that were taken during the festival, came from the “good batch”. It was a  ridiculous statement for such a tragic set of circumstances, an opportunity missed. They could have sent a clear message to all those attending, that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ illegal drug, or for that matter a ‘legal high’.

The two people who died were 18-year old Georgia Jones and 20-year old Tommy Cowan. Courageously, Georgia’s mother went on record and urged other's not to take drugs, describing how her own daughter had died. Georgia had apparently consumed two pills, which had caused her temperature to rise so much, that she suffered a 45-minute fit. Her organs began to fail, her lungs began to fill with blood and fluid and her heart stopped several times. Her mother had to make the very brave and most painful decision to have her life support turned off. In the days that followed it was reported that the “ bad batch” were potentially super-strength Green Heineken ecstasy pills.

A week before the sad events in Hampshire, the authorities in Kent announced that they intended to stock thousands of anti-overdose kits. This followed a recommendation from Public Health England  (PHE) that Kent stock over 3,000 naloxone kits. PHE had looked at the number of naloxone kits needed by each local authority to reverse the effects of opiate overdose. In their report ‘Fentanyl: preparing for a future threat’ they focused on powerful opioids, basing their findings on the number of registered drug users receiving treatment for opiate use and the number drug-related deaths in each area. This issue was specifically highlighted in Kent for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Kent has particular high  levels of fatalities (213 drug related deaths between 2014-2016). Secondly, the MP for Dover and Deal Charlie Elphicke, together with a local woman Michelle Parry had campaigned for action, following the death in 2016 of Michelle’s 18-year old son Robert, from a Fentanyl overdose.

At the beginning of June, police issued on the dangers of taking ‘Snapchat pills’ after two women became seriously ill and were hospitalised , having taken small yellow, brick-shaped tablets made to resemble the Snapchat mobile app logo. It was not reported what these pills actually were, but there is a good chance that they were newly manufactured synthetic drugs, potentially pressed Ecstasy.  Around the same time disturbing images were widely circulated on social media, showing the effects that the former ‘legal high’ Spice can have on people. The picture showed three men slumped over like zombies , in a street in Bridgend.

Widely circulated photo of 3 men in Bridgend , said to be under the influence of Spice

On the day we began to write this article (23rd June) ,15-year-old Hannah Bragg and an unnamed 14-year old boy were found unwell near an unused viaduct in Tavistock, Devon. Both were taken to hospital where sadly Hannah later died. The police stated that they believe that “both teenagers suffered adverse reactions having taken an, as yet unknown, substance or substances”. A few days after, police arrested three people in connection with the death. They were a 20-year-old man for conspiracy to supply a controlled class A substance and two boys , aged 14 and 15 years , both on suspicion of supplying a controlled class A drug.

The accessibility of many of these drugs has also been highlighted recently in the media. The availability of the prescription only drug  Xanax on social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, has been highlighted as a real safeguarding issue. Many young people now view these type of prescription only medications, as recreational drug. Such is the concern, that the issue has been raised in parliament. As well as the dangers of the drug itself, there is the heightened danger that most of the pills on sale are fake and manufactured with a whole host of nasty additives. Last week an online dealer, Bernard Rebelo was convicted of the manslaughter of 21-year old Eloise Parry. Eloise who suffered from Bulimia had purchased online slimming pills’ from Rebelo who advertised them on his website. The pills he supplied were toxic, containing the chemical pesticide dinitrophenol (DNP). Eloise started taking the pills in February 2015, and quickly became addicted to them. She was hospitalised several times from the side effects caused by the pills. She died after she took 8 of the pills within a few short hours.

 Whilst the majority of young people still don’t and won’t use drugs, the readers of this website will tend to deal with, or care for those young people that are more likely to use or at least come into contact with illegal substances.

The use of Class A drugs is still uncommon by young people, with Cannabis still the most widely used illegal drug. However, the use of ecstasy by young adults is still extremely high. What is clear is that the drug landscape for young people has very much shifted over the last few years. Robert, Georgia Hannah and Tommy were not drug addicts. Most young people are not, but frequent drug use in those early years can lead to long term addictions. What connects some of these deaths, is the drugs were taken for ‘recreational use’. If you look back at many of the drug related deaths of young people in the last 5 years, you will identify that the deaths occurred at, during or shortly after recreational activities – festivals, parties and raves.

Young people take drugs for a variety of reasons, including coping with pressures of school, home life, to fit in or socialize with their peers, to experiment and experience something new, to deal with depression or low mood. As safeguarding professionals, it is important that you have a basic  understanding of those drugs that are now favoured by young people, the signs that drug use may be taking place, the effects that they might have, and what they might look like. It is common for most professionals working directly with children (care home providers, social workers, foster carers, Key Workers) to say to us “ she’s on something”. That is the easy part, for the signs of drug use in young people is normally fairly obvious. They key and the much more difficult element to identify, is what they might be on, particularly if the young person is not engaging.

Cannabis is pretty easy thing to spot. A child returning home reeking of that sweet-smelling weed is a dead giveaway. However, most of the other ‘new’ drugs of choice, give little away. Many of the prescription only drugs can easily be mistaken for legitimate over the counter medication, unless examined properly by someone who knows that they are looking for. A recent police warning about the misuse of the anxiety drug Xanax (normally in tablet form) carried advice that dealers are now advertising the drug in the following formats - liquid, powder, sweets, vaporiser and as a  mouthwash. Neither are we talking about phantom-like hooded dealers lurking on darkened street corners or alleyways. Instead many dealers have taken to Facebook , Instagram and other major social media platforms to market their wares.

As police officers it is fairly easy for us to identify bags of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine, but ask us to differentiate between Mephedrone (in tablet form) and contraceptive pills, and we would struggle. Would you know what Mephedrone is? You might recognise its street names Meow Meow or MCAT, but would you know what it looks like, the effects on young people and the risks. MCAT has been around for at least a decade and a few years ago was the fourth most popular drug after cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy. It has been attributed to numerous deaths.

No safeguarding professional needs to be an expert in drug identification. It is impossible, particularly when trying to differentiate between tablets, powders, capsules and pills. That is why we have scientists analyse drugs in criminal cases. However, what we do need to be aware of  is that drug choices amongst the young vary widely. There are many drugs out there and illegally sold prescription only drugs are becoming more prevalent. The toxicity of drugs is increasing , “super-strength” becoming a regular word used by law enforcement and drug charities. Accessibility is easier with young people able to source drugs through the internet, but also being widely available when they attend recreational events. This problem is particularly rife at unlicensed music events, which has seen several drug related deaths.

As we researched this article, it became apparent that the scale of the news stories relating to the deaths of young people from legal and illegal substances, was absolutely staggering. Sadly, as we put the finishing touches to this article on Sunday 8th July, reports began to appear, concerning the death of 15-year Shakira Pellow, who had passed away the previous Friday at Camborne, Cornwall. Shakira had collapsed in the street after taking what were described as small blue tablets marked with the logo ‘Duplo’, in reference to the child’s Lego toys. She later died in hospital. Three other teenagers were also admitted to hospital, whilst two 17-year-old boys were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a controlled drug. Drug related deaths in young people are more prevalent than most of us might think.

So, our message in this article is simply this, the drug landscape has changed. If you are on a day to day frontline team dealing with young people, e.g. teachers, foster carers , care home providers, social workers, youth offending teams, then we suggest it might now be a pertinent time to refresh any drug training input you have had in the past. If you have never had any form of training, then it may be worth suggesting this subject to your agency leads as a topic for your next training session. It is  important that you have a general awareness of the drug scene for this generation. There are several organisations out there that offer interesting and innovative drug training.

Below are some of the drugs causing issues amongst young people. It is not a definitive guide, but purely a snapshot of what is out there. For more detailed information, we suggest that you consult a  good website that specialises in drug identification and advice, FRANK and Drug Wise being two of the most prominent. We also like the Australian site the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

Thanks for reading.

 

Adderall

What is it?

Adderall is a prescription medicine used primarily for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.  It helps the body function and improves levels of concentration whilst reducing hyperactivity. Prescribed and taken properly it is safe to use.

What is it called?

Street names include: Addys, uppers, beans, Study Buddies

 Is it illegal?

Adderall is a Class B drug. This means that possession and supply is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

Adderall can come in capsule or tablet form. In tablet form they can be assorted colours – blue, white light brownish. In capsule form they tend to be brownish/beige in colour.

What are the effects?

A euphoric high with increased energy and a with diminished need for sleep.

 What are the dangers?

Adderall can cause paranoia, excessive anger, aggression, seizures and suicidal thoughts. Physical health problems include: irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, strokes, increased body temperature and potentially heart failure.

Anabolic Steroids

What are they?

Steroids are a stimulant. They are used in sport to help the growth and repair of muscle tissue. They contain synthetic hormones that imitate male sex hormones, specifically testosterone. They are used by bodybuilders and athletes to reduce fat and increase muscle mass. They are your archetypical ‘performance enhancing drugs’ referred to in sport.

What are they called?

Have numerous names , the most common of which are Roids or juice.

Are they illegal?

Anabolic steroids are Class C drugs and should only be sold or supplied through a chemist on prescription. Possession is allowed as long as they’re in the form of a medicinal product for personal use. Possession with intent to supply, supply and importation are criminal offences.

How do I recognise it?

Steroids come in liquid or tablet form. The liquid is usually injected.

What are the effects?

They enhance performance, help grow and build body mass, allowing users to train harder. They can cause mood swings and lead to aggressive behaviour, particularly if combined with alcohol.

What are the dangers?

The effects to the body are too many to list. In the young they can affect natural body growth, cause extreme acne, breast growth and erection problems in men, whilst in girls it can cause facial hair,  breast reduction and menstrual problems. They can lead to health problems with the heart and liver, potentially causing strokes, liver failure or heart attacks. They can also cause dramatic mood swings, aggression, paranoia, sleep problems and long-term depression.

Dextromethorphan

What is it?

Dextromethorphan (DXM or DM) is an opioid derivative, with sedative, stimulant and dissociative properties. The primary use of dextromethorphan is as a cough suppressant, but it is available in many over-the-counter cough and cold remedies. As a medication, taken as directed, it is safe to use and not addictive. However, it is now commonly misused for it is easy for young people to obtain the drug through pharmacies or retail stores.

What is it called?

Like every other drug featured in this section, street names are too numerous to list. They include: DX, Dex, Drex. Red devils and Vitamin D.

Is it illegal and how do I recognise it?

Dextromethorphan  is contained in over 100 over-the-counter medicines which can be purchased  without a prescription from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets. Supervision by a pharmacist is not required. There are no legal age restrictions for buying over-the-counter medicines.  It is sold in syrup, tablet, spray, and lozenge forms. As a misused substance it can be swallowed directly from the bottle, soaked in a cloth and inhaled, snorted (in tablet/capsule form) or sprayed into the mouth. It is rare for it to be injected. Look out for  empty bottles of cough syrup.

What are the effects?

Misused it can act as dissociative anaesthetic causing euphoria, hallucinations, mania, catalepsy (trance like state), analgesia and amnesia. It can mimic the effects of drugs like PCP and Ketamine.

What are the dangers?

Long term use can cause depression and potentially psychosis. Physical health problems can include, liver failure, increased heart rate and seizures  It can also become addictive. Mixed with alcohol and other medicines, there is the potential to overdose leading to death.

Ecstasy

What is it?

Ecstasy comes from the amphetamine group of drugs. It can have both a stimulant and hallucinogenic effect.

What is it called?

The official name for Ecstasy is methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA). Street names are far too many to list, but include:  X, XTC, XE, Love pills, Beans, Skittles, Scooby Snacks and Smarties.

Is it illegal?

Ecstasy is a Class A drug and therefore possession and supply are illegal.

How do I recognise it?

Ecstasy comes in tablet form and is usually swallowed. Tablets can come in any shape, size or colour. It can also be crushed, then snorted, injected or smoked , although these are very rare.

 What are the effects?

A user will experience a feeling of wellbeing, increased alertness, energy and confidence. They may become agitated, demonstrate irrational behaviour and be extremely talkative. Dehydration, excessive thirst, jaw clenching, teeth grinding and enlarged pupils are noticeable signs that ecstasy has been taken. The effects of ecstasy can last up to six hours, but it causes hangover like effects that last much longer.

What are the dangers?

The dangers vary, but can include: increased body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Regular use can also lead to hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia and psychosis. Existing mental health issues may well become aggravated. Ecstasy overdoses are responsible for numerous deaths each year. Generally, the body overheats, becomes dehydrated and major organs begin to shut down. One of the main dangers is that tablets sold as Ecstasy do not necessarily contain just MDMA. Some don’t contain MDMA at all. Tablets are often mixed with a variety of other substances to make the drug go further. A user won’t know what they are getting, and it could contain a fatal cocktail of chemicals.

 

Fentanyl and other prescription Opioids

What are they?

There are a number of highly addictive opioid drugs prescription only painkillers, which are misused by young people. They include: OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Morphine, Codeine, Tramadol and Fentanyl. They are primarily used for pain relief.

Are they illegal?

Most powerful opiates are Class A drugs like Fentanyl or Morphine. Some are Class B drugs like Codeine. Possession and supply of Class A and B drugs is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

They mostly come in tablet or pill form of varying colours. They can be taken orally, by injection or by crushing the tablet ad then and snorting the powder. However, a drug like Fentanyl can also come in patches, dissolvable tongue film or lollipops.

What are the effects?

They cause an initial high, a state of euphoria and relaxation, particularly if mixed with alcohol.  However, they can cause confusion, poor coordination , and reduce decision-making. Physical health problems can include interference with blood pressure, circulation and respiration.

What are the dangers?

There is evidence that people who abuse opiates are more likely to go on to abuse heroin. Users can also quickly develop a tolerance to the drug, which will necessitate an increase in the amount they take to increase the ‘high’. They are highly addictive. This heightens the risk of overdose and death, particularly if mixed with alcohol or other drugs.  Fentanyl is linked to numerous deaths and is more potent than heroin. Like most drugs they can cause long term physical and mental health problems including : depression, paranoia, difficulty waking, slowed heartrate, weight loss and weakened immune system, paranoia.

 

Inhalants

What are they?

Inhalants is the collective name for a group of substances such as glue and aerosols, that are sniffed or snorted. Common inhalants include: solvents, lighter fuel, petrol, antifreeze, cleaning fluids, paint thinners, paint, correcting fluids, nail polish remover, shoe polish and hair sprays. Essentially any liquid or gas that produces an intoxicating effect is in play.

Are they illegal and what do they look like?

These are everyday substances that are sold legally for everyday use. Some are subject to age restricted sales such as intoxicating solvents (18 years), lighter fuel (18) and aerosol paint (16).

What are the effects?

Different types of inhalants have varying effects. However, generally the intention is that they produce a euphoria type effect.  They can affect the brain and lead to confusion, dizziness and a lack of coordination.

What are the dangers?

Prolonged use leads to brain, heart and liver damage. Inhalants can also affect the oxygen intake to the brain, leading to seizures,  fits and potentially death.

Ketamine

What is it?

Ketamine is a powerful general anaesthetic used in operations on both humans and animals. It is commonly referred to as a horse tranquiliser.

What is it called?

Street names include: Special K, Super K, Vitamin K, Ket or just simply K

Is it illegal?

Ketamine is a Class B drug. This means that possession and supply is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

As a medical anaesthetic, Ketamine is a liquid. However, sold illegally is has often been manufactured into tablets or a white crystalised powder. It can be injected, taken orally or inhaled.

What are the effects?

Ketamine is a hallucinogenic. It can cause people to have out of body experiences, making them feel happy and relaxed. Other effects include hallucinations, confusion, clumsiness , anxiety and panic attacks.

What are the dangers?

Overdosing on Ketamine can cause: paralysis, high body temperature, increased heartbeat, convulsions and potentially death.  Mixed with other drugs it is potentially fatal. Ketamine can also affect the bladder, known as ‘Ketamine bladder syndrome’. It is believed that repeated doses of Ketamine may eventually cause difficulties with urination, incontinence and ulceration in the bladder. It can also aggravate existing mental health problems.

LSD

What is it?

LCD is a powerful form of Hallucinogen that causes a lengthy hallucinatory episode.

What is it called?

Street names include: Acid, Battery Acid, Loony Toons, Tabs, Trips

Is it illegal?

LSD is a Class A drug and therefore it is illegal to possess or supply.

How do I recognise it?

It comes in small squares of paper, often printed with designs, or as tiny tablets called microdots and dots. Both are taken orally.

What are the effects?

A typical ‘trip’ on LSD can last up to 12 hours. Users experience hallucinations, during which their world becomes distorted and exaggerated – louder, brighter, bigger etc. They can bring on high body temperature, poor coordination dizziness, headaches, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. Any hallucinogenic can lead to extreme paranoia and other symptoms of psychosis.

What are the dangers?

Once a user is on a trip, it cannot be stopped or controlled. Some users experience bad trips which become living nightmares. LSD can aggravate existing mental health issues, whilst long term use may lead to the development of mental health problems. It is possible for some users to experience a flashback of a trip, without taking any further drugs.

Magic Mushrooms

What is it?

Magic mushrooms’ is a slang term for numerous types of mushrooms, which when taken produces a hallucinatory trip. The most common type in the UK is the Liberty Cap. Trips will vary dependent on the type of mushroom, how much is taken and how toxic it is.

What is it called?

Street names include: Shrooms, Mushies, Boomers

Is it illegal?

Fresh, dried and stewed magic mushrooms that contain psilocin or psilocybin are classified as Class A drugs. Possession and supply is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

Raw or dried mushroom

What are the effects?

Magic mushrooms produce a hallucinatory trip much like LSD, but usually shorter in duration. Like many other  hallucinogenic drugs, the trip can be relaxing, distorting reality and senses. However, a bad trip can turn into a nightmare. They can bring on high body temperature , poor coordination dizziness , headaches, nausea , diarrhoea and vomiting.

What are the dangers?

Many mushrooms are poisonous and therefore taking the wrong one can lead to serious illness or death. Bad trips can often mean that a person may put themselves at risk of harming themselves. They can also aggravate existing mental health issues. Any hallucinogenic can lead to extreme paranoia and other symptoms of psychosis.

Mephedrone

What is it?

Mephedrone is a stimulant related to other stimulants like speed and ecstasy. It was previously used a substitute for these two drugs, as well as cocaine, until being made illegal.

What is it called?

Too many names to list here, but commonly known as: Mat, Miaow Miaow or Meow Meow.

Is it illegal?

Mephedrone is a Class B drug. This means that possession and supply is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

Mephedrone comes in capsule, pill and powder form. In powder form it can appear either white, off white or even yellow. Because most are fake pills, they can be marketed in any colour, e.g. The Red Devil featured in a BBC report really worth reading called Fake Xanax.

What are the effects?

Mephedrone is a stimulant and is usually snorted or swallowed. The effects are similar to amphetamine or ecstasy use. Users will be chatty, alert, self-assured and euphoric. However, it can  also cause anxiety and paranoia.

What are the dangers?

Mephedrone use can become addictive. Users will need to rely on increased and stronger doses. The drug has many potential side effects, but the most worrying is the strain that it places on the heart and circulation. It may lead to fits, hallucinations and  psychotic episodes.

 

Mescaline Hallucinogen

What is it?

Mescaline Hallucinogen is a plant based hallucinogenic drug which leads a user’s perceptions to be altered and induce a dream-like state. It has traditionally been used by some Native Americans as part of their religious rites.

What is it called?

Peyote or Peyote Buttons

Is it illegal?

Mescaline in powder form is a Class A drug, which means that it’s illegal to possess and supply. Dried Peyote Buttons are legal.

How do I recognise it?

Mescaline is derived from button-shaped seed’ found in the Peyote cactus and certain other cacti. Traditionally they are chewed. However some users grind the seed into powder and put it into capsule form, to avoid its bitter taste.

What are the effects?

Mescaline causes a dream-like state of consciousness, altering visual perceptions and sometimes causing hallucinations They can bring on high body temperature, poor coordination dizziness, headaches, nausea , diarrhoea and vomiting. Any hallucinogenic can lead to extreme paranoia and other symptoms of psychosis.

What are the dangers?

A user can experience bad hallucinations much like LSD users. Bad trips can often mean that a person may put themselves at risk of harming themselves.

Methamphetamine (Crystal Meth)

What is it?

Methamphetamine is a powerful stimulant in the same class as cocaine and other powerful street drugs. It is closely associated with being a ‘party’ drug and associated with numerous deaths.

What is it called?

Crystal meth is short for crystal methamphetamine. Street names are numerous but include: Crystal, Meth, Glass, Ice, Crank, Whizz and Chalk.

Is it legal?

Chrystal Meth is a Class A drug and therefore possession and supply are illegal.

How do I recognise it?

Crystal Meth comes in white crystalline form. It can be taken by smoking, but the crystals can be crushed and either snorted or injected.

What are the effects?

It acts as a stimulant, producing a high or rush of energy that makes the user confident and hyperactive. The effects generally last from six to eight hours, but can last much longer.

What are the dangers?

The drug is powerful and highly addictive. There are many cases where users state that just one hit led to instant addiction. It can cause many mental and physical health problems including: significant weight loss, severe mood swings, insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis, suicidal thoughts, irregular heartbeat, elevated blood pressure. Death can come from heart failure.

NPS

What are they?

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are a group of drugs, formerly known as ‘legal highs’. They were designed to get around the then current drugs legislation and were legal until the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act came into force in 2016. They are now illegal. Dependent on the drug , they can be depressants, stimulants or hallucinogens.

What are they called?

The various street names are too many to list. Names vary depending on the drugs – Bliss, Ultra, Silver Bullet, Bath Salts, Blow, Doves, the list is endless. As a professional we suggest that if you overhear a young person refer to a drug by specific name, that you don’t recognise, make a mental note of it and then later turn to our old friend – the internet search engine.

Are they illegal?

Possession of a psychoactive substance is not an offence. However, the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on 26th May 2016 which made it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export any psychoactive substances.

How do I recognise it?

With difficulty. NPS are generally sold as powders, pills or in capsule form. Powders and pills come in a variety of colours. In powder form the drugs can be smooth in texture (like flour) or crystallised (like sugar). Pills and capsules can range in size and shape. Those that are smoked can often be disguised as herbal plant remedies, labelled and packaged as such. However, whilst they do originate from plant material, they have been sprayed with powerful chemicals. NPS can be snorted,  swallowed or in some cases injected.

What are the effects?

Effects will depend on the type of drug purchased. They can be stimulants, sedatives or hallucinogenic. They are made to simulate the effects of many of the most common drugs, including amphetamine,  ecstasy, benzodiazepines, cannabis and cocaine. Effects on a young person will wholly depend on the type and strength of the drug taken. Users could experience feelings of lethargy, hallucinations, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia or psychosis.

What are the dangers?

The major danger is that the young person will never know what is in the product. It could have been cut with anything or be more powerful than they think. This means that there is the possibility of accidental overdosing, leading to potential brain damage or death.

Nitrous Oxide

What is it?

Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas, normally brought in a pressurised canister, which is then inhaled. It is commonly known as laughing gas.

What is it called?

Names include: Laughing Gas, Hippie Crack, Chargers

Is it illegal?

Like NPS, possession is not an offence. However, under the Psychoactive Substances Act, it is an offence to supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export  Nitrous Oxide.

How do I recognise it?

It is normally sold in pressurised silver cannisters of various sizes but can be sold in balloon form. Although a colourless gas, for some it can smell and taste sweet.

What are the effects?

As a ‘laughing gas’ it causes euphoria. However, it can also slow down the brain and body, making the user calm and relaxed.

What are the dangers?

It can cause dizziness and affect judgement. There is a danger of becoming unconscious if the nitrous oxide inhibits the oxygen supply. This normally occurs if the gas is consumed via a plastic bag, or within a confined space. Ultimately this can lead to death.

Spice/K2

What is it?

Spice is synthetic cannabis made of shredded plant matter combined (sprayed or soaked) with mind-altering chemicals. It is man-made and designed to mimic the psychoactive effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the active compound in cannabis.

What is it called?

Some websites claim that there are nearly 700 street names for Spice. We don’t think it is that many, but it does highlight that professionals have an uphill task of keeping up with the slang/street language that many young people use. Google or another search engine is your best bet. Some street names include: K2, Genie, legal weed and fake weed.

Is it illegal?

Any drug containing synthetic cannabinoids is a Class B drug and therefore possession and supply is illegal.

How do I recognise it?

It is similar to herbal cannabis (plant matter – leaves and stem). It is commonly smoked.

What are the effects?

Generally, Spice causes increased relaxation, enhanced and altered sensory perceptions. However, it can also cause paranoia, high anxiety, hallucinations, panic attacks , violence and aggression. Long term regular use can contribute to the development of psychosis and schizophrenia.

What are the dangers?

How do you know what chemicals the manufacturer has used? Uses never know what they are getting and how it will affect them. There are a wide range of possible synthetic cannabinoids available. Spice is addictive.

Xanax

What is it?

Xanax  is a benzodiazepine (sedative). It is used to treat and relieve anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and anxiety caused by depression.

What is it called?

The drugs correct name is Alprazolam, but the brand name is Xanax. Street names are numerous but include: Z bars, Footballs, Xannies, Handlebars, Bricks, School Bus, Benzo’s.

Is it illegal?

Xanax isn’t generally unobtainable in the UK and is not available on the NHS. It can be obtained through private prescription. It is not illegal to possess it, even without a prescription. It is illegal to supply them to another person.

How do I recognise it?

It generally comes in pill form or varying colours, normally between 0.25mg and 2mg.

What are the effects?

It has a sedative like effect, making the user calm and drowsy. The effects only last a few short hours. If a high dose is consumed it can give the feeling of being drunk. As with any prescription drug, there is an extensive list of possible side effects. Those for Xanax include: headaches, nausea, insomnia, vomiting, dizziness and blurred vision.

What are the dangers?

It is highly addictive. Continued use will require higher doses. Pretty much most of the Xanax pills advertised and sold online are fake. This means they are generally cut with all manner  of substances, many of which are highly toxic. It has been attributed to several deaths both in the USA and UK.


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