Deaths from legal highs soar 80 per cent in just one year with one person every week dying from the party drugs
Deaths involving legal highs increased by 80 per cent last year – to one every week.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show fatalities relating to the psychoactive substances rose from 29 in 2011 to 52 in 2012 – compared to 22 in 2010.
Drugs such as 'meow meow', 'Black Mamba' and 'Benzo Fury' were all legal when they were first produced, but have since been outlawed.
Danger: 'Legal highs' such as mephedrone killed 52 people in England and Wales last year
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However, banning the substances has had no effect on the number of deaths they have caused, which increased from 29 in 2011 to 52 in 2012, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Among legal highs, deaths involving a substance called cathinone tripled from six in 2011 to 18 in 2012.
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The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs advises the Government on whether a drug should be banned or reclassified.
This process led to new synthetic cannabinoids - such as those sold under the name Black Mamba - and methoxetamine, sold as 'Mexxy', being made Class B drugs last year.
Deaths: Alex Herriot, left, died at a festival in Scotland last year while Adam Hunt, right, collapsed and died this month; both had taken synthetic party drugs
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And in June this year, NBOMe and Benzo Fury, two groups of legal highs, were banned for 12 months using a temporary class drug order after advice from the ACMD.
The best-known 'legal high' is mephedrone, known as 'MCAT' or 'meow meow', which was banned in 2010 but is still widely used as a party drug.
'Painful lessons': Twenty-year-old Aimee Costello (pictured) died after taking the former legal high M-Cat on a night out last year
Casualty: 20-year-old Aimee Costello died after taking mephedrone on a night out last year
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Among those who died last year after taking synthetic drugs was Alex Herriot, a 19-year-old who collapsed at a music festival in Scotland in June soon after taking Benzo Fury.
Another was 20-year-old Aimee Costello, who died following a night out during which she snorted MCAT given to her by friends
A 15-year-old boy, Ben O'Neill, raped a pensioner in August after consuming a cocktail of vodka and mephedrone.
The fatalities continued this year, as just this month football-loving teenager Adam Hunt died after he took a legal high called AMT which was imported from the Netherlands.
In its bulletin on deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales in 2012, the ONS also revealed the number of deaths involving painkiller tramadol has more than doubled since 2008 to 175 in 2012.
There were 1,706 male drug poisoning deaths - involving both legal and illegal drugs - registered in 2012, a four per cent decrease since 2011.
Female drug poisoning deaths have increased every year since 2009, reaching 891 in 2012, the ONS said.
The number of male drug misuse deaths involving illegal drugs decreased by nine per cent from 1,192 in 2011 to 1,086 in 2012, while female deaths decreased by one per cent from 413 in 2011 to 410 in 2012.
The highest mortality rate from drug misuse was in 30- to 39-year-olds, at 97.8 and 28.9 deaths per million population for males and females respectively in 2012.
The number of deaths involving heroin or morphine fell slightly in 2012 to 579 deaths, but these remain the substances most commonly involved in drug poisoning deaths, the ONS said.
Regionally, mortality rates from drug misuse were significantly higher in Wales than in England in 2012, at 45.8 and 25.4 deaths per million population respectively.
In England, the North West had the highest mortality rate from drug misuse in 2012 at 41.0 deaths per million population.
THE RISE OF LEGAL HIGHS FEEDING BRITAIN'S HUNGER FOR DRUGS
Popular: Legal highs have become a massive industry feeding Britain's hunger for psychoactive substances
Legal highs have always been available in some form or another, with partygoers long using freely available substances like amyl nitrate and nitrous oxide to get a fix.
However, the recent explosion in legal high use came with the rise in popularity of a class of drugs known as cathinones, particularly mephedrone, from 2007 onwards.
The drug, which is chemically similar to compounds found in the khat plant of eastern Africa, became popular among clubbers as a more easily available - and legal - replacement for MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy tablets.
The effects of the substance have been likened to a combination of MDMA, amphetamine and cocaine. It is said to have the euphoric effects of ecstasy, but with the short-lived hit of a line of coke.
Mephedrone's popularity gave rise to a whole new market for legal highs sold over the internet and when the substance was finally banned in 2010 a range of other novel synthesised drugs had sprung up to take its place. Many of them were produced by laboratories in China and bought and imported by entrepreneurs using popular wholesale websites like Alibaba.com. However their purity was difficult to ascertain.
One legal drug which followed mephedrone in rising to popularity was 6-APB, known commonly as Benzo Fury. A molecule of the same phenethylamine class as MDMA, it marked a fresh attempt by enterprising chemists to circumvent drugs laws by slightly changing the chemical makeup of popular drugs.
Those attempts have now turned into a cat and mouse game with legislators, with chemists synthesising new substances faster them Parliament can ban them, spawning a whole industry to feed Britain's hunger for mind-altering substances.
However, unlike drugs which have been around for years and for which risks are generally well known, the long term - and indeed short term - risks many of these new substances are still a mystery.
August 29, 2013
by Mail Online
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