Turning Point’s substance misuse teams help to tackle legal highs in the community

News item posted: 17 March 2017

In communities particularly affected by the misuse of legal highs, Turning Point's substance misuse teams are working to expand the knowledge of other health and social care professionals about these substances.  

The dangers posed by 'Legal highs' or New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are often less well-known than the risks of common illegal substances. This means that it can be more difficult for professionals to offer the right kind of support to those affected by them.  

Many users of NPS do not yet equate their habit with the sort of dangers widely associated with other drugs. Likewise, many mental health, healthcare and police professionals do not find it easy to identify the effects of NPS in those suffering what can be very severe physiological and psychological symptoms. Service users telling of their experience of taking NPS report serious psychological and physiological effects, including seizures, stomach troubles, hallucinations and severe deterioration in mental health.

Helping individuals who choose to use NPS can require the co-operation of police, clinicians, mental health professionals and social services as well as recovery workers. Turning Point's teams are working as closely as possible with other professionals in the communities in which they work, so that their support can adapt to the changing threats posed by new, emerging substances.

Turning Point's Gary Mills, who works with those affected by NPS use in the North of England, has recently been explaining these challenges to the media in his local area. He has said that many users are not aware of the potential effects and dangers of these substances, nor do they know how best to seek help.

It's very clear that different approaches are needed to reach out to and help users of NPS, and why information sharing and joint working amongst professionals is such a vital part of this effort. However, Gary was clear on the potential for established treatment methods to help those affected:

"We've had great success by offering one-to-one or group sessions, and we've helped a large number of people who have had issues with legal highs to leave us drug free."  

Local authorities in some areas of England have looked at the possibility of controlling the sale of psychoactive substances not already regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act, and Turning Point will support any efforts to control the harm done by drugs of any description, and to make sure the right support is available to those who need it.