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Warning about use of legal highs

15 March 2012

Jersey’s Public Health department, the Alcohol and Drug Service and the States of Jersey Police are issuing a warning to Islanders about the use of substances known as 'legal highs'.

‘Legal highs’ is a term used to describe substances that are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamines (‘speed’), LSD and cannabis. 

Progressive changes to our Misuse of Drugs Law means that most of these are now illegal, but it is a moving picture with new substances designed to circumvent the law regularly appearing.

Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health Dr Susan Turnbull, who is a member of Jersey’s Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council, said "We are aware of the ongoing threat from former ‘legal highs’ and more worryingly, of new and even more dangerous substances some of which are not yet controlled by our law. The marketing strategy has been to persuade potential customers that if not illegal, substances designed to produce the same or even stronger effects are somehow safer than conventional illicit drugs. This is nonsense."

Class B

More than 40 legal highs have been identified in the past 2 years led initially by ‘Spice’ and ‘BZP’, followed by mephedrone (miaow–miaow, or m-cat) which has been implicated in at least 42 deaths in the UK so far. Classified as Class B drugs in 2010, mephedrone is now illegal as is the newer, and even more potent and risky naphyrone (NRG-1), closely related to mephedrone, and other potential new drugs in a group known as cathinones.

More recently, the emergence of newer substances such as 'Ivory Wave' and 'Benzo Fury' pose a level of danger that is even higher than predecessor ‘legal highs’.  The importation of these drugs into Jersey is now prohibited under Jersey’s Open General Import / Export Licences. The Island’s Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council is currently deliberating on a proposal to classify them as controlled drugs as soon as practicable.


Dr Turnbull commented “Most legal highs are stimulant type drugs. Users report effects similar to drugs like amphetamines, ecstasy or cocaine such as euphoria, empathy, talkativeness and alertness. However, as with other stimulant drugs, harmful effects also occur including seizures, very high temperature, palpitations, anxiety, paranoia, psychosis and dependence. These effects are dose-related so the greater the amounts taken, the more likely the user will experience harmful effects. In extreme cases, death can result from cardiovascular collapse (heart shock) or multi-organ failure.”

"My advice to anyone considering taking unknown or even branded substances is don’t be a human guinea pig. Remember, if you don’t know what’s in it, then don’t take it. Never believe that if something is ‘legal’ then it must be safer than substances that are not - this is dangerous nonsense. You could be the next statistic."

Class B drugs carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for possession and 14 years for supply along with an unlimited fine.

Michael Gafoor, Director of the Island’s Drug and Alcohol Service, added "We are aware, however, that some people may continue to use legal highs in spite of the known serious health risks and legal consequences."

Users are advised that:

  • the drug must not be injected or mixed with other drugs including alcohol
  • do not use alone
  • limit the amount you use and avoid re-dosing
  • seek urgent medical attention if you feel unwell. In the event of collapse, chest pains, fits or unconsciousness a 999 ambulance should be called immediately

If you require help to stop using legal highs, or more information about them, contact the Alcohol and Drug service on 445000.

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