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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Those darn legal highs!

Those darn legal highs!

The Rise and Rise of Legal Highs:

Head shops had found their breakthrough product, and quickly lost it. Could I still buy some? “The company that made Spice tried changing the brand and logo a few times, and eventually sold off the recipe,” said the salesman. “They still make it in the Dominican Republic, I think, but it’s not easy to get here any more.” He scribbled down the phone number of a possible supplier (“a shaman in Holland”) and sold me a small bag of something called Kratom instead. “It behaves like an opiate without any of the addictive qualities,” he said, charging £15 for a gram of the dried leaves. “Stir the packet into a yogurt and eat it.”

Later, following his instructions, and making a gritty mess of my peach Danone, I ate the kratom. It made me a bit fretful and urgent for an hour or two, a restlessness like that after one too many coffees, when you start to feel you ought to be writing a hit screenplay or enlisting to join wars. Some hours passed and I took an extraordinarily colourful visit to the loo.

Was there more to legal highs, I wondered, than this?

I recall ridiculing so-called “legal highs” during highschool. Then again, the really good ones weren’t readily available. I have since changed my mind on the subject and will heartily agree that many of them are just as powerful (if not more so) than some Schedule I drugs. Kratom is rather fun, although I’ve always had a retched “hangover” from it, which is to say I felt as though my insides were melting and I had a mild vertigo for 12 hours, always as though I were on the edge of a seizure. Salvia is mildly entertaining – 10 minutes of pretty bizarre hallucinations and extreme confusion followed by nothing.

Bullet:

DrugScope’s recent survey highlighted the falling quality of street drugs as a reason why legal highs are growing in popularity. The Mephedrone Tim took was far cleaner than anything he was likely to have bought from a dealer. It had not been cut with chalk, or mashed-up aspirin, or Dreft detergent; it had been mass-produced in a factory, probably in China, imported by a wholesaler, and sold to him by a head shop – pure. He posted a description of his experience on an online drug forum, to warn others about making the same misjudgment.

This is another advantage of legal highs, according to Clarke. When people have better evidence as to what they’ve taken – because a substance bears a brand name, or because it is produced in a factory to roughly the same strength from dose to dose – effects can be compared with some kind of accuracy. Sites such as Drugs-Forum.com and Erowid.org throb with testimonials and advice. “With generic ecstasy there are so many different pills out there with different things in them that their effect is not going to be consistent,” says Clarke. “It makes similar discussion almost impossible.”

Oh my. Commercialization of drugs induced standardization of drugs? Say it ain’t so!

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