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16 July 2014, 06:00
A University of Hertfordshire professor has backed a UK drug and alcohol charity in their warning the country's only "scratching" the surface of tackling "legal highs".
CRI has taken a leading role in treating and educating young people on the dangers of taking these substances, which it calls 'strange molecules'. It offers support to people via its services across the UK.
It's warning, as a nation, we're underestimating the serious public health challenge posed by Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) or 'legal high' misuse.
At it's drug clinics, CRI are seeing a rise of people using synthetic cannabinoids like 'Spice', Mephedrone, MDMA, ketamine, Poke and Euphoria. Many of these substances are freely available in shops located on the high street, as well as online.
As part of its new campaign, CRI has launched strangemolecules.org.uk to keep young people informed of the facts in a rapidly changing environment that sees new drugs discovered every week.
The Strange Molecules campaign was created in response to an increase in young people contacting CRI and reporting that they weren't aware of the potential risks of legal highs.
Prof. Fabrizio Schifano is the CRI's Consultant Psychiatrist and Chair in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in the University of Hertfordshire and has been at the forefront of collating evidence around the UK's legal high situation.
Speaking about the Strange Molecules campaign, he said: "When you think that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has picked up 348 new psychoactive substances, and new ones are being developed every week, it's clear that we are only scratching the surface of a serious public health challenge. What's so worrying is how little is known about these substances, yet they are quickly becoming the drug of choice for many impressionable young people. If we can dissuade them from taking these dangerous, unregulated drugs by giving them the facts, then we're already winning half the battle."
David Biddle, Chief Executive of CRI, says the charity is committed to informing the debate around NPS use. Launching the new Strange Molecules resource, he said: "We believe the common term of 'legal high' is incredibly misleading; legal does not equate to safe, and some substances which were legal have now been classified. Some of these substances are highly potent and can be very risky, possibly up to 10,000 times stronger than the street drugs they emulate, with tiny amounts able to trigger extreme psychoactive responses."