Rugby campaigners call to tackle ‘legal highs’

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Campaigners in Rugby are urging the Government to improve drugs education following a sharp rise in deaths relating to ‘legal highs’.

Swanswell, based in Corporation Street, has responded to a new report by researchers from St George’s, University of London, published last week.

It found the number of cases where ‘legal highs’ were identified as the cause of death had increased from ten in 2009 to 68 in 2012.

Researchers also discovered that the prevalence of such substances in post-mortem tests had risen eight-fold – from 12 in 2009 to 97 in 20122.

Debbie Bannigan, chief executive of Swanswell, said: “The number of deaths caused by the use of legal highs is deeply worrying and the figures should act as a stark reminder about the dangers of taking them.

“Not enough is known about the long term effects of legal highs because they’ve not been around very long, and new versions are quickly created after a ban comes in.”

The charity stresses that although ‘legal highs’ are marketed as legal substances, it doesn’t mean they are safe – it just means they have not yet been fully checked and a decision made about whether they are made an illegal drug to use or possess.

The substances often used like illegal drugs such as cocaine or cannabis and can be very dangerous, particularly if mixed with other drugs or alcohol.

They are sometimes advertised as bath salts or plant food, with a warning they’re not fit for human consumption.

Debbie added: “We need to see increased investment in national research to help us understand exactly what the risks are.

“It’ll help develop better drugs education, so that people recognise the harms of legal highs and can make informed decisions about their use.”

Swanswell is currently supporting a campaign led by the Leicestershire and Rutland Substance Misuse Partnership called ‘Legal highs, lethal lows’, which highlights the risks of recreational drug use and links to health risks in isolation or combined with alcohol.

To find out more about the ‘Legal highs, lethal lows’ campaign, visit

For more information about Swanswell and the services it provides, visit