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.
09 August 2010 By ADAM MORRIS
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[Ivory Wave] 'Bath salts' legal high lands 20 in hospital in a week