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'Bath salts' legal high lands 20 in hospital in a week
Adam Morris - Evening News - 9th Augiust 2010
Twenty people have been hospitalised in the Lothians in the past week after taking a legal high described as "the strongest party powder there is".
They were taken to hospital suffering from symptoms including severe nausea, vomiting, anxiety and hallucinations after taking Ivory Wave, which is sold as a concentrated form of bath salts but used as a drug.
Doctors are alarmed at the sudden rise in cases and in a rare move, NHS Lothian has launched a special appeal to persuade youngsters not to experiment with the substance and other similar so-called "legal high" drugs.
The health board has warned that the range of new substances available can cause potentially life-threatening problems such as kidney failure, seizures, muscle damage, and loss of bowel control,
Legal highs came to prominence this year when the UK government made the plant food mephedrone illegal, after it emerged several people who had taken it had died soon after. Now health agencies say new substances have been developed to replace it, and doctors in Edinburgh are most concerned about Ivory Wave, described as the "the strongest party powder there is" by online sellers. One online shop warns that it is "not for the faint-hearted? Extremely strong!"
It is openly available to buy in "head shops" as it has not yet been banned and is typically being taken by young adults aged 18 to 25.
Health chiefs have detected a number of other drugs for sale in the last month, including Legal E - a herbal variation of ecstasy, and Silver Bullet - a single pill claimed to give eight hours of "concentrated mental and physical responsiveness".
The substances present a particular risk because such a variety of ingredients can be added to the core recipe.
Dr James Dear, a consultant clinical pharmacologist at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said: "These are sold as certain things, like bath salts, but bought purely as drugs.
"One producer's Ivory Wave could be completely different to another's because various things are added. This is why we don't always know what is in them and what effect they could have. As a result we have to appeal to people not to take it.
"When mephedrone was made illegal by the government all these new legal highs came in to take its place, and the concern is the people who make these will always come up with new legal alternatives."
Jim Sherval, a specialist in public health for NHS Lothian said: "The chemicals used in legal highs change all the time so people can never be certain what they are actually taking and what the effects might be.
"In most cases, the products have not been tested, so little is known about how toxic they are.
It is important that people understand, that just because a substance is legal or claimed to be legal, it doesn't mean it is safe.
"We need to get across the message that these legal highs pose a real danger."
Labour's health spokeswoman for Edinburgh Councillor Lesley Hinds said: "This is very worrying.
"We need to be careful not to glamorise these names, but it's important people are aware of the dangers because at this stage we don't know what long-term impacts it could have."
Anyone who feels unwell after taking a legal high should see their GP or call NHS 24.
A substance based on bath salts in the form of powder giving users "flashing" sensations for around four hours, and effects similar to amphetamines
A pill designed to emulate ecstasy which gives "concentrated mental and physical responsiveness" for eight hours
Known as the official "legal alternative" to cocaine, providing "incredible" energy and taken as a single capsule
Another concoction of legal chemicals and herbs combined to produce a cocaine-like drug
Also known as "meow meow" this plant food was made illegal after two deaths were linked to it
Internet drug fear of 'legal highs' to buy online
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