Almost 700 people took part in an anonymous survey to provide NHS Tayside with its most comprehensive information on the use of so-called legal highs.
The five-week online survey on the use of New Psychoactive Substances( NPS), was run by the health authority on behalf of the Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) in Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross. Its results will help to make improvements to the assistance and support offered to individuals and families affected by the use of NPS.
Respondents were asked to to share their own experiences and or thoughts of NPS and the impact they had.
The results show that 16 to 19-year-olds are the most common age group trying NPS for the first time and reasons given included experimentation, ease of access and use while socialising. Of 94 respondents with direct experience of NPS, 26 per cent said they always took it with another substance, the most common being alcohol, with cannabis and cocaine also featuring.
More than 100 respondents also said that they had themselves, or were aware of others, who had needed emergency medical help after taking NPS.
The survey’s results have been published as part of the New Psychoactive Substances Needs Assessment for Tayside 2014 which makes several recommendations on how to improve the support provided to people affected by NPS.
These include improving data collection to monitor NPS-associated trends, raising awareness of NPS and supporting the restriction of access to the substances.
Lucy Denvir, public health consultant, said: “The use of New Psychoactive Substances is a rapidly growing issue.
“We want to thank everyone who took part in our survey. We hope that by reporting experiences of NPS in the Tayside area and suggesting changes for the future, this work will provide a platform to consider and improve the way in which we provide help and support to those who take NPS or are affected by others who do.
“The term ‘legal high’ is misleading and implies a level of safety and legality that is not present with these substances. Buyers of NPS cannot be certain of the actual content of the products sold and the advice is not to use these substances.”
The report can be accessed at www.nhstayside.scot.nhs.uk/OurServicesA-Z/PublicHealth/PROD_213564/index.htm