What are legal highs?

  • They contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy.
  • They are not yet controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and there is often not enough research about them to know about their potency or effects when used with other substances or alcohol.
  • More and more legal highs are being researched to see what their dangers are. Many substances in legal highs have already been made illegal.
  • They cannot be sold for human consumption so they are often sold as incense, salts or plant food to get round the law. The packaging may describe a list of ingredients but you cannot be sure what is really in the product.
  • Just because they are called legal highs doesn't make them safe or legal.
  • You can't really be sure what you are taking or be sure what effect it will have on you or anyone else you give it to.
  • They are given eye-catching names and have been directly linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions including in mental health services and, in some cases, deaths.

What effects can they have?

  • Legal highs can act like stimulants, downers/sedatives or psychedelics or hallucinogens.
  • They will have widely different effects on different people ranging from feelings of euphoria to sleepiness to hallucinations.
  • They can cause seizures, unconsciousness, breathlessness, vomiting, internal bleeding, aggression, palpitations, and foaming at the mouth.
  • They have also been linked to deaths and will cause harm to unborn babies in the case of pregnant women who take legal highs.
  • Taking legal highs and then driving is like drug driving and illegal. You could still be unfit to drive after the day you have used them. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison for drug-driving.

Which organisations can help people who have taken legal highs?

  • Contact Lifeline Newcastle on 0191 261 5610
  • For under 18s DnA Young People's Service 0191 2777377
  • For families or carers PROPs 0191 2263440.
Page last updated: 
24 February 2016
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