St Albans residents warned about dangers of legal highs

Chief Inspector Ken Townsend

Chief Inspector Ken Townsend - Credit: Archant

St Albans residents have been warned against “gambling with their lives” by taking new psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as so-called legal highs.

There have been cases in Herts where people have taken NPS and ended up with life-altering medical conditions as a result of organ failure, or with a criminal record because of their behaviour after taking mind-altering drugs.

A new social media campaign targeting people between the ages of 14 and 35 was launched at Herts Police headquarters last Friday, with the aim of raising awareness of the dangers of taking such substances.

Social media, smart phone apps and websites are being used to promote safety messages and educate locals, with people directed to a page - including via an image of a roulette wheel - offering help and advice.

The term ‘legal high’ is misleading as many of these substances contain illegal drugs and often contain chemicals which are dangerous for human use, and have resulted in people dying in the UK.

There have been concerns in St Albans about the use of such drugs.

Chief Inspector Ken Townsend, who spoke at the launch, said: “We do not know the exact contents of these substances but what we do know is that they can cause life changing health conditions and in some cases, they can be fatal.”

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Two years ago, a Radlett teenager died after inhaling what he thought was laughing gas at a friend’s party.

Tests later revealed that the canister contained a lethal cocktail of toxic gases including butane, which is used as a lighter fuel, and pentane, which is used to make polystyrene.

This newspaper recently publicised concerns about the use of nitrous oxide in public places after empty canisters of laughing gas were found in a city churchyard.

And Club Veeda in Adelaide Street faced criticism earlier this year when it emerged that it was selling hits of nitrous oxide – the drug was later withdrawn from sale.

In March this year, two St Albans men were sentenced at St Albans Crown Court after the discovery of a package containing more than 10,000 LSD tablets disguised as legal highs.

The pair used a mail box company to distribute NPS overseas, but staff at Heathrow Airport became suspicious.

Terrie Baverstock, programme officer for drugs at the county council, said: “We cannot ignore the fact that these substances are in Herts.

“Drug and substance misuse, sadly, have no social boundaries and educating people of the dangers plays an integral part to prevention.”

If you have taken illegal drugs or if you know someone who has become unwell after taking them and needs urgent medical care, call 999 and ask for the ambulance service.

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