When Alex Herriot and his mates turned up at the RockNess festival in Scotland last week, they were up for having a good time. Herriot, 19, had just tweeted: “To say I’m excited is an absolute understatement.”
However, hours later, the Edinburgh student was dead, having taken a legal drug called Benzo Fury. His two mates also ended up in hospital, but are OK. Alex’s death has reopened the debate into the laws surrounding drugs, and the ones able to slip through the net. There are fears new drug-users will take legal substances on the assumption that, because they’re not banned, they’re safe to use.
“In many cases, ‘legal highs’ have been produced to mimic class A drugs, but are structurally different enough to avoid being classified as illegal substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Just because a drug is legal to possess, it doesn’t mean it’s safe,” advice site Talk To Frank says.The highs first entered the spotlight in 2009, when the body of Hester Stewart, 21, was found next to a bottle of GBL after a party in Brighton. It’s thought ‘Meow Meow’ was behind the death of Lois Waters, 24, in the same year, and, in 2010, the same substance led to a teenager ripping off his scrotum. The drug, banned later that year, was sold on the internet as plant fertiliser. And just last week, teenager Katie Wilson appeared in court after parading naked around a Tesco after a Benzo session.
“I was a disgrace,” Wilson admitted after she was fined £200 for her drug-fuelled strip show. “It is very dangerous and it can do you real damage.” In response to these incidents, the government has introduced temporary class drug orders, meaning legal highs can be banned for up to 12 months while the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs decides whether to make them illegal permanently.
However, sellers of synthetic substances get around legislation by changing a drug’s chemical make-up to produce similar effects to cocaine, speed and ecstasy. Some are classified as illegal to sell, supply or advertise for “human consumption”. In response, sellers offer them as ‘plant food’, ‘bath crystals’ or ‘pond cleaner’. A spokesman for the charity Drugscope said: “All you have to do is tweak the chemical formula and it is no longer illegal. If people take ecstasy or ketamine they know there is a risk. But because these [new substances] are marketed as ‘legal highs’, users assume they are safe. The message has to be that they are not.”
So what are some of the legal highs readily available to buy through the internet? TNT finds out.
Benzo Fury/ 6-APB
What is it? Currently legal as an alternative to ecstasy, Benzo Fury is an amphetamine derivative. It can make the user feel full of energy or, on the flipside, can cause panic attacks. It’s often sold as 6-APB, mixed with other legal highs and, sometimes, illegal drugs.
Cost: From £10 a pill.
Users say: “The urge to kill myself has passed slightly but no drug is worth how shit I’ve felt today.” (drugs-forum.com)
Ivory Wave/ Cloud 9/ Bath Salts
What is it? ‘Bath Salts’ is the term given to a range of synthetic legal highs labelled “not for human consumption” to avoid legal wranglings. The ‘Miami zombie’ (see box right) was said to have taken a bath salt called Cloud 9. It can cause heart problems, agitation, hallucinations and fits.
Cost: From £11 for 200mg, £18 for 500mg and £17,000 for 1 kg.
Users say: “Bath salts are like a box of chocolates… you never know what you are gonna get.” (drugs-forum.com)
Eric 3/ Diablo
What is it: There have been no clinical studies on the effects of Diablo or Eric 3, a capsule filled with powder that can be swallowed or emptied and snorted. Users are said to feel effects similar to that of amphetamine or speed. Stimulants make you chatty, feel alert, euphoric and full of energy. However, side effects are also known to make the user feel paranoia, agitation, and can create a psychotic state.
Cost: From £18.99 for two pills
Users say: “The diablo xxxs made my ‘plant’ sick for two days and he only took one.” (drugs-forum.com)
What is it?: MXE is being marketed as a replacement for ketamine, but without K’s harmful effect on the bladder – although there’s no evidence to support this claim. It is chemically related to ‘dissociative anaesthetics’ and has similar effects, but is reported to be much stronger. The
user is said to experience euphoria and hallucinations. It
was banned in April – the first by the government under
a temporary class drug order; it’s illegal to sell or supply it, but possession for personal use is legal.
Cost: Sales have been suspended.
Users say: “I have the absolute worst shits ever. Like carbonated liquid. This is pretty consistent.” (drugs-forum.com)
What is it?: This is a fine-crystal powder form of DMC,
a local anesthetic with stimulant properties that some studies have shown to be half the potency of cocaine. Users feel mild stimulating effects at best – however, studies show sometimes they feel nothing at all. The drug however still presents strain on the cardiovascular systems, like cocaine.
It will sometimes be advertised as a ‘bath salt’.
Cost: About £10 a gram.
Users say: “Sweet mother of Christ, that was hideous. Don’t fucking bother.” (drugs-forum.com)
Effects of Cloud 9
The Miami cannibal who was shot dead after chewing off 80 per cent of a homeless man’s face was found to have Cloud 9 pills in his stomach. Rudy Eugene, 31, attacked Ronald Poppo (above) as he slept on train tracks on Miami’s MacArthur Causeway last month. Eugene chewed lumps of flesh from Poppo’s face before officers arrived on the scene. After refusing to stop, Eugene was shot dead, leaving his victim in a pool of blood.
Poppo was last week awake in hospital and alert, doctors said. He is being treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, which revealed photos of him walking down a hospital hallway, supported by staff (above). “He’s pleased to report to all of you that he’s feeling well, he’s eating, he’s walking around with physical therapy, he’s talking with us,” Nicholas Namias, a University of Miami trauma surgeon, said.
Images: Getty, Thinkstock