Trendy Boutiques Selling “Legal High” Drugs Emerging as a Deadly Fad

Trendy Boutiques Selling “Legal High” Drugs Emerging as a Deadly Fad

What may look like an upscale cosmetic or convenience shop can be quite deadly. Appearing in trendy, seemingly high-class global boutiques, a rapidly emerging type of drugs called “legal highs” are taking lives tragically and opening the door for young adults to abuse other types of drugs.

Shops springing up with alarming speed across Europe are luring in international buyers and college-aged students, advertising a “safe” or “legal” drug option, with stylish packages and names like “Blessed” or “Bubble.” However, these mixtures and concoctions are responsible for sudden deaths and dangerous actions by party-goers.

One of the drugs’ dangers lies in the misconception by users that they are harmless. Many produce a sensation similar to alcohol intoxication, with what some say are lessened hangover-like effects. Other users say they can try the sensation of drugs without the danger of a felony appearing on their legal records in years to come. However, reports are increasing of users entering psychotic states and suffering life-threatening liver damage as more people experiment with “legal high” drugs.

Some of the formulas, such as those containing mephedrone, have been legally banned – but officials say there’s always something new on the market to take a banned drug’s place. The marketing message behind these drugs is alluring to a variety of audiences, as they are often called freeing, recreational or safe. Compared to the penalties for drugs like cocaine or marijuana, the legal high drugs offer manufacturers and sellers a new opportunity for quick cash.

Many of the formulas are herbal-based and are compared to substitutes for marijuana or cocaine, spurred by widespread abuse of their illegal drug counterparts and viewed as alternatives to illegal drugs. Research into the effects of the legal high drugs has shown that side effects can include a severe sense of paranoia and inability to sleep, to the point that the user engages in dangerous and bizarre behaviors. In clinical settings, many experts say it’s difficult to determine whether the person has used a legitimate or copycat drug formula because the physical and mental effects are so similar.

Dangerously high heartbeats, severe dehydration, hallucinations and liver problems have all been reported from legal high users, but pharmaceutical manufacturers of the drugs are able to avoid laws by modifying banned formulas with even minor compound changes. Just like cocaine or ecstasy, the formulas are designed to create a brain-level response geared toward pleasure. Like illegal drugs, users of legal highs often begin experimenting with drugs like heroin, cocaine or crystal meth.

In addition, some drugs with the label “legal high” that are sold as party aids actually contain illegal substances. When combined with alcohol, the dangers escalate even more and are linked with deaths among several young adults. Formulas sold on boutique drug shelves can be different from one shopping trip to the next, and many parents are not aware that their teen or young adult is experimenting with life-threatening substances.

Government-supported marketing messages and campaigns warning users against the risks of legal highs, including coma or sudden death, are attempting to curb young people’s interest in the drugs across the U.K. Because the drugs are easily sold over the Internet and formulas change quickly to avert law restrictions, much more integrated measures are called for to save lives across the globe.

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