The drug deal. If you envision a dodgy backstreet with kids handing over cash to a shadowy stranger, you’re behind the times. Instead, picture someone walking into a shop, grabbing some packets, paying at the till, and leaving. No sneaking around the back, no brown paper bags under the counter. Or picture someone sitting in front of his computer, paying by credit card. A few days later, the postman delivers discreetly packaged drugs right to his door.
This is the new, “safe” drug trade booming in Britain.
The websites shocked me. They’re not hidden in some shady corner of the Internet. I’m hardly familiar with the drug scene, but it took me just two Google searches to find hundreds of sites offering dangerous drugs delivered right to my door. I don’t even have to find out what shop stocks the drugs, or what the drugs are called. Online, I can find it, buy it and get it without leaving my home.
It’s just like shopping on Amazon. I’ve bought office stationery from worse-looking websites. You can read descriptions of the products and even check reviews left by other users. These drug dealers certainly aren’t hiding—in fact, they encourage you to follow them on Twitter or like them on Facebook. And you can use your credit card safely; many of the sites use PayPal.
With just a couple of clicks, I found a site where I could buy a drug called “Annihilation” in complete safety.
Except it’s only the shopping that’s safe. Nine people have been admitted to Glasgow’s hospital for taking Annihilation in the last three months. Others have died from taking these types of easily available drugs.
Welcome to the world of “legal highs”—drugs with all the harmful effects of illegal drugs but without the purchasing hassles. “Legal highs” is the name given to a whole range of different chemicals that are often very similar to illegal drugs, but are not technically covered by existing laws. Shops sell them with impunity—until they are banned. Then, they’re quickly replaced with something else that skirts the law.
Because these drugs are legal, they can be bought at much cheaper prices and in a much purer form than illegal drugs.
There’s a lot of talk in both Britain and America about legalizing cannabis; in America’s recent elections, two states took high-profile steps in that direction. But more dangerous and more powerful drugs are already easily and legally available.
Over the past few years, “legal highs” have done for drug use what the Internet had already done for pornography. There are no more shady backroom deals. The risk and shame are gone. But lives are being destroyed.
None of the websites give any indication that you are buying something dangerous. Drugs are described as “herbal incense.” One way companies get away with selling them is by adding the label “not for human consumption.” Some even find ways to avoid doing this. One website displays this disclaimer next to its drugs: “They consume you. You don’t consume them.” That sounds more like a slogan than a warning that you could end up in a hospital.
The rest of the page is full of people posting reviews about how great a high the drug gave them. No one mentions any danger. The few negative reviews complain that the drug isn’t powerful enough.
These drugs are drawing in a huge number of young people.
“We thought it was good news when demand for cocaine and heroin began to fall,” said Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, founder of the Club Drug Clinic in London. But it wasn’t good news. “What has happened is that they have been replaced by other drugs that we are trying to understand.”
Since the late ’90s, cannabis and Ecstasy use in the UK has halved. In that time, the rate of illegal drug use by people ages 16 to 24 has fallen from 30 percent to 19 percent. That looks like progress. But the Angelus Foundation, which aims to educate young people about the dangers of “legal highs,” estimates that one in three people ages 16 to 24 are likely to try legal highs. “We might be reaching a situation where legal highs are as attractive as tobacco these days for youngsters,” said Bryan Dent, the drugs coordinator for West Yorkshire Police, in the Yorkshire Post.
Ignorance Isn’t Bliss
Many of those taking these drugs don’t know how dangerous they are. They’re being killed so someone else can make a killing.
Maryon Stewart set up the Angelus Foundation after her daughter Hester died from taking what was then a legal high. Stewart says she knows “parents from all over the country who have lost kids” to these drugs. Yet when children in schools learn what is really in the drugs, “They feel that they’ve been duped and they feel that they’ve been cheated,” she told Sky News.
Perhaps more worryingly, parents are also ignorant of the dangers. “New research has found most (86 percent) parents are lacking the vital knowledge needed to warn their children about the dangers of ‘legal highs,’” wrote the Angelus Foundation on its website.
Many of these drugs are chemically very similar to illegal drugs. The main active ingredient in Annihilation, for example, is a synthetic form of cannabis. Often, these highs are far stronger than the illegal form of the drug.
Detective Inspector Jim Bradley of the Glasgow City Center Police warned that those who have taken Annihilation “have experienced adverse health effects, including increased heart rate, unconsciousness, numbness in legs causing collapse, paranoia, aggression and self harming.”
Because many of these drugs are new, the long-term effects are unknown. Often, there are no studies into their side effects. “These kids are playing Russian roulette,” Vice President of Caron Treatment Centers Dr. Harris Stratyner told The Fix, a website on drugs and recovery. “It’s absolutely ludicrous that anyone would put this into your body. It’s like trying to get high off arsenic or rat poison.”
Ketamine is an early “legal high” that was outlawed in 2006. Heavy use of Ketamine is now known to cause permanent damage to the bladder. Users can be left with pain whenever they urinate. Some had to have their bladders removed. gbl (Gammabutyrolactone) is another former “legal high” that was outlawed in 2009. Several died after falling into a coma from taking it. “Users of gbl suffered high levels of dependence and harrowing withdrawal symptoms,” wrote the London Times.
“When these patients arrive we can only treat the symptoms, because we don’t know what they have taken—and neither do they,” said a specialist at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Dr. Richard Stevenson, last July. “None of the cases admitted this year have died, but no one should be under any misapprehension that legal highs are potential killers,” he warned. “If this steep rise in admissions continue, it is only a matter of time until we see deaths.”
If these drugs are so dangerous, why are they still legal? Mainly because the British government is stuck playing whack-a-mole with small, virtually anonymous, barely legal drug manufacturers. As soon as officials outlaw one chemical compound, several new ones arrive.
The government passed a law in 2011 so it could outlaw new drugs in a matter of weeks, not months. But 28 new “legal highs” arrived on the market in the first five months of 2012 alone. The government can’t keep up. The drugs are only banned after they’ve come to the government’s attention—which means they’ve already caused serious harm. Once they’re banned, users either continue to use the drug illegally or move on to the next big thing.
Although “legal highs” are hitting the headlines mostly in Britain, they are a problem in America and elsewhere too. America’s poison control centers received 6,138 calls about “bath salts” in 2011, up from just 304 the year before. This “legal high” is now illegal, but there will be more—if they’re not available already.
The arrival of legal highs shows the flaw in the West’s drug policies. Stopping people from getting drugs isn’t working. Man cannot solve the drug problem using law enforcement alone. Stopping people from wanting them is the only solution. But this is much harder. It would require a complete change in society.
A Real Solution
The problems associated with these drugs demonstrate a fundamental spiritual truth. The only genuine hope of eliminating the production and consumption of destructive drugs would be a worldwide revolution in family, education and legislation. It would mean having a society where there is no one willing to sell potentially lethal products for a profit. Where no one would market something labeled “not for human consumption” to people that they know will smoke or swallow it.
It would mean that children must be brought up in a world with real purpose, where their greatest goal is something more than temporary pleasure. It would mean an end to the relentless, oppressive, self-destructive messages promoted by movies and popular music. It would mean widespread strong family life, in which parents protect and nurture their children. It would mean that teens and other young people spend their free time not out clubbing, but engaged in wholesome, family pursuits. It would mean creating a whole society of people full of hope, who were focused and enthusiastic about what they could accomplish.
Does all this sound impossible? It is with man. But this drug-free world is coming! For more information about it, request a free copy of our free booklet The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like. ▪