Health chiefs issue 'legal high' warning

By on 02/09/2013 in News

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Brummies using ‘legal highs’ have been warned they could be playing Russian Roulette with their lives because they have absolutely no idea what they are taking.

The warning comes as Britain was this week labelled the ‘addicted man of Europe’ thanks to a dramatic rise in the use of so-called club drugs.

A report from the Centre for Social Justice claims one in 12 young people in the UK have tried legal highs with over 250 known ‘New Psychoactive Substances’ or 'legal highs now available.

And Ricky Bhandal of Public Health Birmingham fears users are stepping into the unknown.

He said: “If you’ve got a substance and you don’t know what it is, there’s a risk right there – it doesn’t come with a list of ingredients and it’s very hard to find out what it is.

“Whatever people are doing, it’s vital that they are making an informed choice and those people who are taking legal highs are really playing Russian Roulette with their lives at this stage.

“We’re all about minimising risk. If somebody is using these drugs, we’ll try to minimise the risk, so they’re not in any danger any more.”

The Birmingham Public Health Substance Misuse team works with partners across the city to provide treatment and services for people with drug and alcohol problems.

The work focuses on:

  • Reducing Demand
  • Restricting Supply
  • Building recovery in communities

Bhandal says legal highs pose a new challenge. He added: “This new emerging market is a very difficult market to try and gain any evidence and intelligence around.

“In Birmingham we’re still at the stage where we’re trying to gather that information while trying to adapt the services for the users out there.

“We do know of clients who do come into treatment, which is a good thing but we’re not getting an absolute overload of people coming into the system.

“Of course that doesn’t mean those people aren’t out there. We have a service where, regardless of what substance people are taking, they can come into our treatment system in Birmingham.

“If anyone needs help and support, we’ve definitely got the services to try and help them.”

For information and advice about drug and alcohol treatment services in Birmingham, call free phone 0300 5555 999.


The Birmingham Drug and Alcohol Action Team (BDAAT) has now become an integrated part of Birmingham Public Health. Substance Misuse commissioning exists to reduce the harm caused by drugs and alcohol to improve well-being.

Public Health Birmingham now delivers a range of programmes in response to the National Drug Strategy 2010. The primary role is to commission services appropriate to the needs of local communities, monitor and report on performance and communicate plans, activities and performance to stakeholders.

Key outcomes:

  • Around 6,500 addicts were treated in Birmingham during 2010/11. 55% were referred into treatment through the Criminal Justice System.
  • Furthermore, outreach services contacted over 7,000 drug users – providing advice, information and brief interventions.
  • Birmingham treatment services have also reduced the sharing of needles by over 50% since 2008/9.

A range of services are commissioned across the city area aimed at supporting problem drug and alcohol users. These include:

  • Shared care for substance misuse (GP Prescribing)
  • Community drug and alcohol treatment teams and other specialist treatment provision
  • Blood borne virus service
  • Detoxification and rehabilitation (including in-patient services)
  • Structured day care
  • Specialist and community needle exchange and pharmacy provision
  • Outreach work with homeless and vulnerable groups
  • Young people's services

A variety of support and follow on services are also available including:

  • Tenancy support
  • Education and employment services to back up treatment and sustain recovery
  • Aftercare support
  • Relapse prevention
  • Training opportunities
  • Volunteer opportunities

In recent years, substantial developments have been made through the Drug Interventions Programme. The programme provides clear pathways through drug treatment and other services for those with offending and drug related problems.

There has also been increased investment in the expansion of services within the primary care sector, aiming to improve involvement of users and carers in service development. Most services deal with mainly Class A drug users but some offer services for problematic use of other substances including cannabis and alcohol.

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