BBC Newsline investigates legal highs with Randox Testing Services
This week, Randox Testing Services opened the doors of its laboratory to BBC Newsline, and Donna Traynor, to offer an expert opinion on legal highs. Legal highs are mood-altering or stimulant substances whose sale is not banned by current legislation. They are made up of various chemical ingredients and replicate a similar user experience of illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. They are extremely addictive and can have fatal side effects.
April 2016 marks the anniversary of one such case. The tragic passing of Adam Owens, a 17 year old boy who died after taking a legal high known as Sky brought this issue to the spotlight, and now one year on, the BBC want to know what is being done to tackle this issue.
The most difficult issue to combat with legal highs is that their chemical make-up is constantly being altered in order to get around legislation. As they keep changing it is difficult to create tests for these substances as they constantly evolve. Addressing this issue, Dr Mark Piper, Head of Toxicology at Randox Testing Services explained what is currently being done to try and counter this problem:
“We counter it here at Randox by continually developing new tests. In the past 12 months, Randox has developed over 115 new tests for new types of psychoactive substances.
These drugs are continually being developed and evolving into new types of substances which have previously fallen outside of the legislation, so it is a challenge for the likes of ourselves as drug testing laboratories to continually develop new tests to detect these substances.”
The prevalence of legal high use makes this an issue that cannot be avoided. Randox Testing Services are dedicated in their commitment to continually develop new tests in the fight against legal highs.
A ground-breaking undercover investigation has exposed the deadly world of legal highs, the latest drug craze sweeping the UK and causing devastation to families and communities across the country.
An investigative team from the BBC followed the journey of these dangerous and highly addictive substances from source to sale and used secret filming to reveal that legal substances bought in the UK’s high streets pose a hazardous and lethal risk.
During the hour-long programme this evening on BBC Scotland, journalists shine a spotlight on the growing legal high epidemic, where synthetic drugs are designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.
The team enlisted the help of Randox Testing Services, to further investigate the make-up of these drugs, which contain a cocktail of chemical ingredients that suppliers continually tweak to evade the law.
But the legality of these ‘highs’ in no way makes the drugs any safer. The disturbing test results show that legal highs bought in the UK contain a poisonous mixture of synthetic cannabinoids which have as strong an effect as illegal drugs, such as LSD or Amphetamines, and in some cases even stronger.
Sadly, the statistics correspond, as Government figures show that in just three short years the number of deaths in the UK linked to legal highs grew from 12 in 2009, to 97 in 2012.
It is a growing problem that Dr. Mark Piper, Head of Toxicology at Randox Testing Services, is all too familiar with:
“It’s very much back-room and underground chemistry that’s behind all this. You don’t know what’s in them and what quantities of chemicals are used, and therefore how much to take. These substances were not even designed to be used on humans, so in taking them you are playing Russian roulette with your life.”
Piper added; “In supporting the fantastic investigative team from the BBC we are glad to assist in highlighting this growing epidemic which has had shattering effects on families and communities across the UK.”
The intense rise in prevalence of legal highs and their catastrophic effects has sparked the debate of a controversial Psychoactive Substances Bill, which potentially will implement a blanket ban on the production, distribution, sale and supply of any substance defined as having a ‘psychoactive effect’.
This BBC Scotland documentary will air tonight, Monday, 5th October 2015, on BBC One Scotland at 9p.m.