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Warning youth workers: Dangerous legal highs are freely available for young people
So-called legal highs are sold on the Internet as alternatives to banned substances such as ecstasy. Health experts and youth protection workers repeatedly point out the dangerous side effects of herbal mixtures and bath additives: consumption can be fatal.
Legal highs can be life-threatening
For years, experts have been warning against so-called legal highs, which are put online as supposedly harmless herbal mixtures or bath salts. The intoxicants can lead to poisoning and, depending on the composition, trigger panic attacks and hallucinations. In addition, physical impairments such as fluctuations in blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, serious cardiovascular problems such as rapid heartbeat or cardiac arrest, convulsions or comatose conditions can occur. Sometimes they can even lead to death.
20-year-old woman died after consuming herbal mixture
"Beach Party", "Crazy Monkey" or "Unicorn Magic Dust" - with cool names and youth-friendly design, psychoactive substances are glorified on the Internet, according to the website of the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate. In the federal state, a 20-year-old died in May after consuming herbal mixtures. The dangerous substances are also freely available for minors. Legal highs are sold on the Internet as alternatives to banned substances such as ecstasy. The online shops are easy to find via search engines. According to the information, they often advertise their products on social networks or offer free samples there. "The consumption of the substances poses high health risks and can even lead to death," said the Rhineland-Palatinate youth secretary Dr. Christiane Rohleder. "It is irresponsible if young people are deliberately baited with dangerous substances."
Easy to buy for teenagers
Legal highs are popular with young people, according to the Rhineland-Palatinate State Criminal Police Office (LKA). According to an LKA spokeswoman, the phenomenon has not existed for more than three or four years. The Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Youth and the Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (KJM) also point out the danger of the so-called legal highs and their great relevance for the protection of minors when presenting the current report from “jugendschutz.net”. Accordingly, retailers presented legal highs as life enrichment and coping with stress. They also made it very easy for their young target group to learn about the products - for example via Facebook - and to purchase them.
Half of the products are covered by the Narcotics Act
According to the report, the herbal blends could be ordered from 62 out of 62 internet shops checked, i.e. in 100 percent of these cases, without age control. The dealers often write online that the mixtures are only room scents and not for eating or smoking, but this procedure is classified by “jugendschutz.net” as a pure disguise tactic. The herb mixtures are often explicitly advertised as legal by the providers, but an investigation by the University Hospital Freiburg between April 2015 and March 2016 came to different results. The researchers found that 55 percent of 471 samples fell under the Narcotics Act. 73 percent of the mixtures contained strong psychoactive substances that are known to lead to dangerous poisoning.
Almost 40 dead last year
However, with legal highs it is in most cases unclear which substances are in them. From the office of the federal drug commissioner Marlene Mortler (CSU) it said: "Almost every week, a new substance with slight molecular changes comes onto the market." In addition, the diverse drug variants are also used as a legal loophole. A spokeswoman for the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) in Wiesbaden said that legal highs were “designed in such a way that their specific composition is always just so” from the law. In future, a law should ensure that chemical substances are no longer prohibited, but individual substances. According to the information, legal highs belong to the so-called new psychoactive substances (NPS). According to the BKA spokeswoman, this means substances that have been chemically modified so that they no longer fall under the Narcotics Act. However, the effect on the psyche remains and is sometimes even increased by the change. According to the BKA, 39 people died nationwide last year from consuming NPS. Compared to 2014, this was an increase of 56 percent. At that time there were 25 deaths across Germany. In addition, the police assume a high number of unreported cases. (ad)