A YOUNG man began hearing voices in his head and spiralled into a state of paranoia, depression and psychosis after taking so-called ‘legal highs’.
The case has led Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner, John Dwyer, to issue a warning about the dangers of using the substances.
Legal highs are designed to replicate the effects of illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine, but side-step the law by being structurally different enough not to be covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Mr Dwyer said: “It has been brought to my attention that there are people in Cheshire, of all ages, willing to take the risks of taking these drugs to get a buzz.
“Just because a substance is sold as legal, doesn’t mean that it’s safe – you can’t really be sure what’s in a ‘legal high’ or what effect it’s likely to have.
“The fact that the substances have been directly linked to emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases, deaths has received wide publicity but I wonder whether users have thought through the less well known consequences. When mixed with alcohol or medication prescribed for mental illness, they are having a particularly adverse impact.”
Police officers have been working closely with our partners, such as Trading Standards and the health service, to tackle the use of legal highs, which is becoming increasingly commonplace.
A case study by the agencies states: “One young offender will no longer leave the house due to psychosis and paranoia. He is very depressed and hears voices in his head. He has been referred for a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Assessment. Clearly, this has long-term consequences.”
Officers say there has been an increased use of legal highs during the weekend in the bars and clubs, which is having a knock-on effect on levels of crime.
They have reminded people that driving under the influence of drugs, whether legal or illegal, is against the law.
Mr Dwyer added: “Legal highs have consequences for the health service but are also placing an unnecessary burden on the police service.
“I welcome the focus this issue is receiving from the constabulary but I also want more done nationally to raise awareness so that people are aware of the consequences before they make a decision that could change their life forever.”