Drugs workers in Wales warn over new 'legal highs'

Image caption,
Other drugs are already appearing online to replace mephedrone

Warnings have been issued about the next wave of "legal highs", or drugs which do not fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Five weeks after the plant food chemical mephedrone was banned, a BBC Radio Wales investigation has found more than 400 others on the internet.

Janet Roberts, of the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline, said two, MDAI and NRG-1, were "really worrying".

She said: "All the same concerns we had with mephedrone are going to be there."

Radio Wales' Eye on Wales programme has found new products are already appearing online to take the place of mephedrone, a synthetic stimulant belonging to the chemical class of cathinones.

Since April, mephedrone and its related compounds have been illegal after measures were rushed through Parliament on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

The ACMD found the substance was "likely to be harmful", despite incomplete research.

The drug has been linked to a number of deaths but there has been no conclusive scientific proof that it has been solely responsible for any of them.

'Research chemicals'

As a Class B drug - the same category as cannabis and amphetamines - anyone now found carrying mephedrone could face up to five years' imprisonment - while dealers could receive up to 14 years.

Eye on Wales found alternatives were already being touted on the internet, with numerous websites selling MDAI and NRG-1.

Some offer them as "research chemicals", others as "plant food". All mark them as "not for human consumption" to stay within the law.

A regular clubber and former mephedrone user tells the programme: "We'll probably have a discussion and see if there is any information online about whether somebody has used any of these new legal highs.

"Or there will be a sample test group who will try it on our behalf and then we'll take it the next time."

Janet Roberts said: "Some of the reports have been really worrying.


"They are talking about this could actually lead to brain cells dying off, insomnia, paranoia, very harsh comedowns where people feel severely depressed, even suicidal."

The ACMD has already announced that it is to review the family of drugs that includes NRG-1.

South Wales Police assistant chief constable David Morris, the lead chief officer for substance misuse in Wales, said: "We can do what we can in terms of enforcing the law and taking those offenders to court."

"As with anything else, in terms of substance misuse and drugs, what plays the important part is treatment, education and prevention.

"And that's through our schools, through the National Health Service and through the voluntary agencies - to make sure that young people understand the dangers of taking such drugs as mephedrone."

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales at 1830 BST on Monday 24 May.

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