Scientists come up with faster method to identify legal highs

Scientists come up with faster method to identify legal highs

Legal highs are responsible for an increasing number of deaths globally over the past decade. Formally known as new psychoactive substances (NPS), legal highs or club drugs are substances that have similar effects to illicit drugs, such as cocaine and cannabis. These contain one or more chemical substances that can cause serious health risks.

To reduce the dangers associated with the drug, scientists at the Queen’s University Belfast have devised a new method to help in identification and quick screening of the psychoactive substances. The study, published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal the Analyst, focuses on ways to identify the substances found in legal high more quickly, enable authorities to seize and destroy legal highs, carry out searches, and issue prohibition orders on drug sellers.

New method to help in rapid analysis of newer compounds in legal highs

Developed by Professor Steven Bell and Ph.D. researcher Louise Jones of the Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, the new method will help in rapid identification of known compounds and enable an in-depth analysis of the newer ones.

During the course of the study, the researchers successfully identified 75 percent of more than 200 samples previously seized by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). However, the scientists hope that this will allow labs to carry out an in-depth investigation of the compounds identified as new and unknown.

Bell said, “The production of these drugs is constantly evolving and unfortunately there have been many instances of highly dangerous variants appearing, causing multiple fatalities before the threat they posed was recognized.”

Though legal highs are substances similar to illegal drugs, the chemicals present in them are not fit for human consumption. Bell said, “In 2014 alone, 101 new psychoactive substances were identified. As a result of the new approach devised at Queen’s, we predict that we will be able to identify many more substances and at a much more rapid pace as our work in this area progresses. This will not only aid in the creation of new legislation but will also enable more meaningful information to be available to the Community, Police and Public Health agencies, with the aim of saving lives and preventing serious injury.”

Chemicals in NPS haven’t been tested for safety

According to a report published in the Belfast Telegraph in March 2016, legal highs got their name because when they first appeared in the U.K. there was no law to prevent their legitimate sale.

The chemicals present in NPS haven’t been tested for safety and are still considered illegal to be sold under medicines legislation. Users are often unaware that one in five legal highs contains an illegal substance that has not been tested for human consumption. The following are the most common risks associated with legal highs:

  • The risk increases if someone combines alcohol with any legal or illegal substance that result in a high.
  • Legal highs may produce symptoms such as reduced inhibitions, drowsiness, coma, seizures and, in a few cases, death.
  • Different drugs may look similar externally or have similar names, but may have varying strengths and produce different effects.

Path to recovery

To curb the use, many drugs that were earlier sold in the form of legal highs are now being controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act, which means it is illegal to possess them or to supply to others. Dependence on legal highs can have far-reaching impacts, affecting almost every organ in the human body. It may interfere with an individual’s ability to make decisions and can lead to frequent cravings. This is the time when a person needs professional help to get rid of an addiction.

If you or your loved one is trying to overcome addiction, get in touch with the California Drug Addiction Helpline. Call our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1946 today to know about the best drug rehab centers in California. One of our representatives can help you find the right drug treatment centers in California that can help you lead a sober life.