The streets of Dundee and Tayside are “awash” with a “dangerous” new drug that could be more addictive than cocaine, a leading drug treatment charity has claimed (writes Katie Smyth).
But police have been unable to properly crack down on the methyl methcathinone based drug — dubbed “bubbles” — because it is still technically legal.
According to Gareth Balmer, project manager at the Addaction Dundee branch, the new “legal high” is not controlled in any way.
He said, “Dundee and Tayside are awash with it at the minute, and we need to do something about it. This is not a drug to be taken lightly. It may have a cute name, but it’s very dangerous.
“We first started hearing of bubbles in August or September last year, and a lot was seized at Glastonbury last summer.
“It’s been prevalent in Dundee for the past eight or nine months.”
Part of the problem of getting tough on bubbles is that so far the police have been unable to trace its exact chemical make-up.
User reports suggest bubbles is a cocktail of MDMA, ecstasy and cocaine, but this has not been confirmed, or otherwise, by scientific testing.
There are thought to be three or four varieties, and Tayside Police is currently testing a batch seized last Friday night while they took Public Health Minister Shona Robison on patrol in the city centre.
A force spokeswoman said, “Just because it’s legal to possess doesn’t mean it’s safe.
“Most of the substances are illegal to sell, supply, or advertise for human consumption, under medicines legislation, because of their effects on the body. Legal highs can contain a range of potentially dangerous chemicals, and their chemical makeup changes all the time — so you can never be 100% certain what you have bought, and what the effects might be.
“The chemicals in legal highs have, in most cases, never before been used as drugs, so have had no tests performed on them to show they are safe.
“Nor do they have a long history of use, so health problems would not yet have become apparent.”
The drug is either swallowed or snorted, and has a similar effect to ecstasy — producing euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and feelings of empathy.
According to Addaction, users have reported rashes, numbness, headaches, amnesia, extreme bruising, palpitations, rapid breathing, heart pain, ulceration of the nose, throat and stomach, paranoia and aggression among the side effects.
Mr Balmer said, “Although some people are willing to take the risk, there have been virtually no toxicity tests done on bubbles, and we simply do not know what the risk is.
“If people are going to take it, we would advise them not to mix it with other substances, including alcohol.
“If you don’t feel any effect don’t continue, and don’t snort it, as evidence suggests bubbles can damage the nasal passages.”
He also warned that although the drug is technically legal, it could still land you in trouble.
“If you are stopped by the police with bubbles you will be arrested until they have tested it,” he said. “You may end up in Bell Street for the weekend while they confirm you are not in possession of something illegal.”
25 September 2009