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Alex and his mates were ready for a good time at Rockness.

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.


Highs and Lows: TNT investigates the big buzz with legal drugs
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