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Home Kent News Article
Kent's legal highs users are being urged to come forward and take part in the first national survey focused on the over-the-counter drugs.
The ‘Legal High’ National Online Survey was launched in an effort to learn more about the substances through users sharing their opinions and experiences of taking them.
Legal highs are substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs, such as cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy, but are not controlled by the country’s drug laws.
Figures show 68 deaths in the UK were linked to legal highs in 2012, up from just 10 three years earlier.
Professor Neil McKeganey, from the Centre for Drug Misuse Research in Glasgow, helped create The ‘Legal High’ National Online Survey.
He said: “This is the first attempt to gather national information on the extent of this new form of drug use; who’s using what drugs with what frequency; where they’re coming from and with what effects.
“The situation with death is really alarming.
"We’ve seen in the UK for example something like a 600 per cent increase in deaths associated with these drugs" - Prof Neil McKegany
“We recognise as do many people now that we have inadequate information on the extent of legal high drug use in the UK.”
He added: “The situation with death is really alarming.
"We’ve seen in the UK for example something like a 600 per cent increase in deaths associated with these drugs.
"They’re new substances often, they’re appearing often through the internet and through the market. They’re rapidly being widely consumed.”
One of the most recent incidents involving legal highs in Kent resulted in three teenage girls from Ashford needing to be hospitalised after taking the substances.
The mother of a Kent teenager also believes her son, Jimmy Guichard from Gravesend, died after using a legal high .
Professor McKeganey believes such cases need to be taken on board by people living in the county.
He said: “I gathered that there’d been a death and I know that a local MP has been campaigning for the closure of some of the shops selling legal high drugs.
“I think it’s important for people in Kent to actually contribute to this survey because how authorities in Kent respond to the problem locally really needs to be moved forward by detailed understanding about the extent of use within your area.
“It’s always dangerous where people fashion a response on the basis of very scant understanding or knowledge about what’s actually going on.
"This is the first opportunity really for local people in the Kent area to actually tell people the sorts of drugs that have been used and what their experiences of those drugs are.”
The government launched a review into the substances last December, which could lead to sweeping changes to the UK’s drug laws.
But those behind the survey believe the ‘voice of the people’ is just as important.
Professor McKeganey said: "The government will make a response to legal highs, indeed they’re doing so now.
"But I think the real benefit of this survey is it offers individual people right across the UK the opportunity to contribute their voice to really shaping policy and interventions and response to this new form of drug use.
“One of the biggest dangers in determining a response to drug use and behaviours is if those responses are not in any shape or form based upon accurate information on what people are doing and what they’re experiencing.
“This is one of the very rare opportunities people have got to ensure that their voice has a role in determining how the government and how treatment agencies respond to this new form of drug use.”
The ‘Legal High’ National Online Survey is available here until the end of September this year.
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