Dozens of Leeds traders are supplying students with dangerous ‘legal highs’, an investigation by Leeds Student has found.
This paper has uncovered that a number of stalls in Leeds Kirkgate market and some local shops are selling New Psychoactive Substances (NPSs), otherwise known as ‘legal highs’, under names such as ‘Green Beans’, ‘Pink Panthers’ and ‘Black Mamba’.
A number of the packets on sale were clearly marked ‘not for human consumption’ and ‘harmful’. Our reporter challenged traders at a number of locations about whether these substances were safe to ingest. All but one told Leeds Student they were safe to consume.
One trader explained: “it gives you a high”. This paper spoke to a number of students who had taken the drugs. One said
“I took a Benzofury and I tripped out all night – I absolutely hated it and thought I was dead. It was probably the worst experience of my life”.
He added that he knew of other people who had experienced serious health problems as result of taking an NPS, and that he had heard of two people who “ended up in intensive care” and that “one of them died from taking Benzofury”.
Speaking to Leeds Student, PC Matt Guy, the University’s police officer, said:
“In my mind it’s not a matter of “if” we will have a NPS death in Leeds but “when”. I don’t want to be the police officer having to talk to a parent about why their wonderful child has thrown away the rest of their life whilst at university for a cheap thrill.”
Bryan Dent, drugs co-ordinator for West Yorkshire Police told Leeds Student of his concern about the components in these substances. “Some of the things are being marketed and sold as legal substances, but when they have been test purchased by law enforcement agencies, turn out to contain illegal substances, such as cocaine and mephedrone, but they are advertised as other things. “On many occasions the shopkeepers are not committing an offence, but that doesn’t mean to say that what you purchase from these shops is legal and harmless, as often it is very, very harmful.”
When Leeds Student presented Mr Dent with photos of the products our reporter saw on sale, he confirmed that these were “typical examples of what’s on sale”.
Another student who had also had experiences of the drugs said he found them “too chemically” adding, “you can go out on them and it takes you a lot longer to recover than it would smoking a bit of cannabis or cocaine”.
The Government has launched an early response system where they can attempt to uncover dangerous ‘legal highs’ and take action to criminalise them. However, there has been criticism that they have been slow to act.
Speaking to this paper, Diana Johnson MP, Labour’s Shadow Crime and Security Minister, said:
“They are dangerous substances and we need to send out a clear signal that they pose a real threat to mental and physical health. Since the Home Secretary took office over 100 new legal highs have emerged – that’s a new one every week. Banning a few each year isn’t enough. These drugs are easily available from shops on the internet and on the high street, and because they are legal people wrongly think they’re safe. The Home Secretary needs to stop being complacent and get a grip on the situation.”
The Union’s Welfare Officer Katie Siddall told Leeds Student: “Legal highs are very worrying first and foremost because of how widely available they are. I believe that educating students on the dangers of any drugs as opposed to telling people what to and what not to do, is the best way to tackle heavy drug use of any kind. If any students are struggling or feel like they need support following the use of legal highs, or indeed any other drugs, I would encourage them to visit our confidential drug drop in service held in the Student Advice Centre on Thursdays from 2-5pm.”
If you or anyone you know has been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, you can call the Frank drugs helpline on 0800 776600, contact your local GP, visitleedsclubdrugclinic.com or speak in confidence to the Union’s Student Advice Centre.
Words: James Greenhalgh
Photo: Becki Bateman