Legal Highs: What They Are and What You Need to Know

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When it comes to people getting high and becoming addicted, most people often think about illegal substances or prescription painkillers, but that’s not always the case. There are legal drugs out there, those that haven’t, for whatever reason, been assessed by the FDA or DEA as an illegal substance. Some of these drugs are even available to underage children and many can have serious side effects and long-term impacts when it comes to addiction.

Many of these legal drugs are used by people who want to avoid illegal drugs and the strong or dangerous effects they can have. The users still want a similar feeling, and the legal highs often have a milder effect than the illegal ones.

For instance Khat, which IS illegal in the US, but not throughout much of the world, is a stimulant similar to cocaine, but with a much milder high and without the massive cardiovascular risk that coke has.

The problem is that these legal highs haven’t been assessed, and not much is known about their effects, especially over time, their potency, or what happens when they’re mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

New Synthetic Drugs

From K2 to bath salts, our current world is plagued with synthetic, designer drugs that in some parts of the country are still legal. These substances were created in a factory and not marketed as food or medication, so the manufacturers bypassed the need for FDA approval.

By marking packages “not for human consumption,” these drugs quickly spread throughout the country and grew quickly in popularity.

Some of them, such as K2 or Spice, a synthetic cannabinoid, are primarily used to get the same effect as a drug, in this case marijuana, but without having to use illegal drugs or take the risk of failing a drug test. But the synthetic drugs don’t quite work like the original and many have shown that use can have devastating consequences, including psychosis and death.

Older Legal Highs

Yet it’s not all new, chemical substances that people are abusing legally. There are still some old school legal highs that both kids and adults abuse. Here are some of the most common.

  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Salvia
  • Mephedrone
  • Ephedrine
  • Betel
  • Calamus Root
  • Mexican Calea
  • Peruvian Torch Cactus
  • Peyote (which is only legal for certain religious ceremonies or in certain places)

Will the US Follow the UK?

America is not the only country having an issue with legal highs. In May of 2016, the UK implemented the Psychoactive Substances Act, the first of its kind. This law states that any substance that is being used primarily for its psychoactive effects is not legal to produce, supply, or offer to supply.

Because of the vagueness of how the law is written, it’s designed to cover both the current legal highs, and the manufactured ones of the future.