Mar 31


“Mephedrone and Legal highs”: harmless fun? Or something more sinister?

The Legal Status of Mephedrone

Mephedrone was made illegal and classified as a Class B drug in the UK on April 7th 2010.  Possession can lead to up to five years in prison, and supply can lead to up to fourteen years in prison and an unlimited fine.

Mephedrone Test – Testing for Mephedrone

Currently, mephedrone tests can only be carried out on the raw substance itself, or by taking a sample of hair, and having that sample tested in the laboratory. This is typically done using a 3-month sample, which requires three centimetres of hair to be taken from the scalp of the donor.  This can be either a 3-month overview (which can tell whether mephedrone has been taken at some point in the last three months) or a 3-month segment review (which is more precise in terms of when the drug was actually taken).  We now offer mephedrone testing (both as a mephedrone hair test and testing the raw substance) as a standard test, so please Contact Us for pricing and to get the process underway.  Currently, there is no on-site Mephedrone Test available.

If you are concerned that someone may be using legal highs or other illegal drugs, please visit our drug information page for information on the signs, symptoms and effects of these substances.

Overview of Mephedrone

Legal highs have stirred significant media interest after several recent deaths amongst young people. Legal high sales have risen steadily until a recent spike in sales driven by media coverage.  Many online mail-order suppliers even claim to have sold out as a result.

With almost half of the websites selling legal highs based in the UK, the European Union’s drug agency has highlighted that the UK is a hotspot for the online trade in legal highs.  But with Government efforts to stem the tide, how long will this last?  Certainly a point to publicise is that although a drug may currently be “legal”, this is not a real indication of safety, as many substances aren’t being used for their intended purpose – which can range from plant fertilisers to worming treatments for cattle.

With the recent media furore surrounding legal highs, and the resultant confusion around the legality, safety and detectability of legal highs, particularly Mephedrone, this article aims to inform about what is known for certain.

History of Mephedrone

Mephedrone as we know it today was synthesised by individuals in back-street laboratories. Because of this, there have been no official tests into the results of use on either animals or human beings, rendering the drug potentially life-threatening. Mephedrone was first officially recognised by boards investigating new drugs in 2008, but due to the drug’s underground origins, very little is known about the effects it can have on the human body.

Originally marketed as a legal high, mephedrone quickly came to the UK media’s attention. Mephedrone’s popularity was likely caused by the decreasing purity of ecstacy and cocaine in the UK. Media and political pressure made it necessary for the Government to review the drug. Mephedrone had already been outlawed in Israel,  Sweden, Romania, Germany, Estonia, Denmark and Croatia when the UK moved to make it illegal in April 2010. Mephedrone is now a Class B controlled substance.

Tackling the Problem

Attempts to tackle the sale of legal highs is a mounting challenge for many governments – with drugs such as Mephedrone (also known as meph, 4-MMC, MCAT, Drone, Meow and Bubbles) already banned in Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Israel.  Synthesised in overseas laboratories, these drugs are often designed to mimic the effects of controlled drugs such as Ecstasy, Cocaine and Amphetamines, but they currently fall outside of most drug control laws and are sold via the internet or in “headshops”, along with incense, smoking paraphernalia and other drug related “souvenirs”.

Other formerly legal highs which have now also been legislated against to make them a Class C drug include GBL (gamma-butyrolactone), an industrial solvent and BZP (benzylpiperazine, manufactured as a cattle worming treatment, sometimes called “Benny”), whose effects on the brain are very similar to Ecstasy.  Synthetic cannabinoids, which are man-made chemicals sprayed on herbal smoking products such as Spice, fall into Class B of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Despite these changes, the trade in formerly legal highs may not diminish as significantly as we might hope.  Substance misuse in today’s society is certainly more common than public perception would indicate. Study data from the British crime survey carried out by the Home Office indicates that nearly half of all 16 to 29-year-olds have used an illegal drug in the last year and almost one in five 16 to 24-year-olds have used an illegal drug in the last month.  When you consider young people at secondary school age, data from the NHS indicates that 27% of 15-year-olds have already used illegal drugs.

So what drives this behavior? Research into the motivation behind drug use, carried out by the Joseph Rowntree foundation, has indicated that the single largest contributory factor to drug abuse is boredom. A close second is the individual’s environment. I.e. if everybody around you is using drugs, isn’t that normal? Whilst the third leading factor is curiosity.  With such mundane forces driving substance abuse, legal highs (or illegal highs) are a likely purchase for many young people as media coverage grows, and whilst they continue to be legal.

About the Author:  Christopher Evans is the Technical Director of Drug-Aware Ltd, a provider of drug awareness training, laboratory services and drug and alcohol testing products to the NHS, British Police, Companies and private individuals across the UK.

Please contact us for information on mephedrone testing in the workplace, health care or at home.

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Jun 30

LSD – Drug Information, Facts and Awareness

What is LSD?

LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) is known by street names such as as acid, blotter, lucy, smilies, paper mushrooms, stars, tabs, M, window panes, sunshine or trips.  It is a semi-synthetic psychedelic drug which originates from ergot, a type of grain fungus that typically grows on rye and is the most widely known of the hallucinogenic drugs.  It is an extremely potent and an illegal Class A drug in the UK, carrying a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment and an unlimited fine or both for possession, and up to life imprisonment and an unlimited fine or both for supply or dealing, even if this is without charge and between friends.

How is LSD Taken? and what does LSD look like?

LSD is usually taken orally.  This drug may come in the form of a liquid solution which is odourless, colourless and slightly bitter to the taste, and is sold in small vials. It was formerly distributed largely in pill form (frequently called microdots) and small squares of gelatine known as window panes, but the most common form of LSD is now blotting paper which comprises a sheet of blotting paper impregnated with the liquid drug solution, dried, and perforated like a sheet of stamps into small squares measuring a quarter of an inch square called ‘tabs’ or ‘hits’ which are currently sold individually at a street cost in the UK of approximately £1 to £5.  The ‘tabs’ of paper are then swallowed or placed on the tongue to absorb the drug.

These sheets of squares often bear a psychedelic print or ‘blotter art’ with various illustrations on them such as strawberries, cartoons, aliens, geometric patterns, angels, Alice in Wonderland, depictions of the Swiss chemist Dr Albert Hofmann (who first created LSD in 1938) – and even Elvis Presley.  The design is sometimes used to denote the manufacturer, batch or strength of the drug.  It is estimated that since the mid 1970’s over 350 different prints have been produced.

LSD and the Government

LSD is widely known as a powerful hallucinogenic drug and was used internationally in an experimental capacity in the 1950’s and 1960’s by Governments to explore the possibilities of mind control, interrogation and social engineering.  Military studies were even carried out to evaluate LSD as a weapon.

The Effects of LSD

Effects of taking the drug are usually experienced between 30 minutes to an hour after taking LSD and can last for up to 12 hours.  Outward physical symptoms can be minimal, but may include dilation of the pupils, an increase in body temperature and blood pressure, sweating, sleeplessness, tremors and a dry mouth.

More dramatically, the psycho-emotional effects include visual hallucinations, delusions, an altered sense of time and space, a ‘crossover’ of the senses including sound and vision (called synesthesia) so that a user may experience hearing colours or seeing sounds, seeing straight lines as curved, static objects as moving, or ordinary objects such as faces or flowers ‘morphing’ or ‘melting’ into something entirely different and not always necessarily pleasant.  Heightened religious and spiritual experiences may be encountered and a sense that a greater ‘truth’ about life or oneself has been discovered.

A bad ‘trip’ can result in total panic or severe depression, fear of death, fear of insanity and a feeling of being trapped in a very bad dream with no control.  Rather than flowers or pretty colours, one may see demons, monsters or believe that friends can not be trusted or are thinking badly of them.  Whether a trip is bad or good is largely dependant on the expectations, the mood and environment of the user when they take the drug.  Generally speaking, LSD will amplify the current mood from contented to euphoric but potentially also from mild depression to terror.

Drug Information: The Dangers of LSD

More disturbingly, research suggests that underlying mental disorders hitherto not exposed may be triggered in an otherwise mentally healthy person causing lasting psychological ill effects.  More frequently, flashbacks of a trip are reported by users which can occur days, weeks or even years after the drug experience.  Many drug users report that just one tab can produce a single experience that changes their mind-set forever (whether good or bad), consolidating the general opinion that LSD is indeed a mind-altering drug even in the long term.

So – do people die from taking LSD?  The answer, as with most if not all illegal drugs is yes.  However, this is not usually a result of an overdose.  As a result of its large index of toxicity, a huge concentration of LSD is required before death results by overdose.  The US Drug Enforcement Administration reports that tabs seized contain on average of 20mcg – 80mcg LSD each which is a relatively low potency bearing in mind that a lethal dose of LSD has been estimated to be 14,000 mcg.  In the case of a massive overdose, coma, bleeding disorders and respiratory arrest may occur.  It should also be noted that pregnant women should never ever take LSD as it causes uterine contractions which could result in premature delivery and loss of their baby.

The most common danger lies in what is known as behavioural toxicity – uncharacteristic or abnormal behaviours brought about by drug use.  These may be perceived as negative, such as suicidal tendencies, or positive, such as feeling superhuman – but both can be equally as dangerous and lead users to behave in a dangerous, irrational and sometimes fatal manner.

Is LSD Addictive?

LSD is not considered to be physically addictive because although tolerance levels can be built up whereby more of the drug is required to facilitate a trip, the compulsive drug-seeking behaviours of drugs such as cocaine, heroin or alcohol are not brought about by use.

Drug Testing – Testing for LSD

Whilst many other illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine and cannabis / marijuana can be detected at home using a home drug test, LSD is not detectable in this way as the concentrations of the drug are too low to be detected by a visually read diagnostic test kit and a laboratory test is required to screen for LSD abuse.

For more information on home drug testing kits, please visit our home drug test FAQ page.  Alternatively, for information on drug testing in the workplace, visit our workplace drug testing page.

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