Young people in Ireland are the biggest users of legal highs in Europe, apparently. A new survey of 15-24 year-olds showed that 16% had taken them and over 50% thought they should be legal. The results also showed that we think they’re much less dangerous than people in other countries do.
Playing it safe?
People have pretty strong opinions on both sides of the drug legalisation argument, but the issue of perception really stands out here. Do we really think that legal drugs are less dangerous than illegal ones? Do we think about the risks as much when you can buy them in a shop or online instead of from a dealer?
What’s the risk?
One of the issues with legal highs is that we don’t know a lot about them. Last year, new legislation made a lot of head shop drugs illegal, but these drugs are constantly being replaced with new ones that can get around the law – sometimes because they’re meant for other purposes other than human consumption (eh….). You can’t be sure what’s in them, as with street drugs.
Herbal, not harmless
But as these trade a lot of the time under the “herbal” term, does that mean we think there is less of a risk? Just like illegal drugs, dehydration, flashbacks and paranoia can all be potentially part of the herbal high. Herbal doesn’t mean harmless. Also as the ingredients change to get around the laws they could bring along a whole other set of side-effects. Herbal or synthetic, the “legal equivalent” of weed or Ecstasy, it’s tough to find out what you’re actually taking.
Just like illegal drugs, you can get addicted to the high and it can interrupt your life. Just like illegal drugs, you aren’t always in control. There’s a really good story by a guy who had a lot of experience with this here.
When it comes to making decisions about legal highs, maybe we should be asking ‘is it safe?” rather than ‘is it legal?’
Making your mind up
If legal highs are something you’re trying, or considering, give that decision as much thought as if it were speed or cocaine. Try and find out what you can, and if you go for it, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re in a safe place with people you trust. Have a read of the section on drugs for more information.