Tayside and Central Scotland

NHS warning over 'growing issue' of 'legal high' use

A study by NHS Tayside has warned of a "rapidly growing issue" around the use of so-called "legal high" drugs.

The heath board spoke to 700 people in Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross anonymously as part of the study of "new psychoactive substances".

Of these, more than 100 had themselves or known someone who required emergency medical help after taking them.

The survey report recommended cracking down on the sale of the substances and improving support for users.

The investigation was carried out alongside alcohol and drugs partnerships in each area.

It found that the most common age for people to try new psychoactive substances for the first time is between 16 and 19.

More than half of survey respondents who had used the substances said they had occasionally done so with another substance, such as cannabis or alcohol, while 26% said they always did so.

'Growing issue'

In each of the last seven years, more than 300 people have been diagnosed at Tayside hospitals with a condition relating to the use of the substances.

The number of Scottish Ambulance Service reports noting the involvement of "legal highs" in cases is on the rise, with 130 in the first seven months of 2014 alone, compared to just three across the same period in 2012.

This was matched by the 109 survey respondents who said they had personally or knew someone who had required emergency medical attention after taking them.

Public health consultant Lucy Denvir said the use of the drugs was a "rapidly growing issue".

She said: "We hope that by reporting experiences of new psychoactive substances in the Tayside area and suggesting changes for the future, this work will provide a platform to consider and improve the way in which we provide help and support to those who take them or are affected by others who do.

"The term 'legal high' is misleading and implies a level of safety and legality that is not present with these substances.

"Buyers of new psychoactive substances cannot be certain of the actual content of the products sold, and the advice is clearly not to use these substances."

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