A former legal highs addict today told how the same drugs that are now being widely sold in Blackpool almost ruined his life.
Speaking to The Gazette, the man, who we are only naming as Lee, called for the potentially deadly substances to be permanently banned.
It comes as drugs services say they are “fire fighting” and cannot cope with the soaring popularity of legal highs.
Last week, Blackpool Council served legal notices on five shops stopping them from selling psychoactive substances.
The move follows evidence children as young as 13 had been buying the substances.
But Lee, 22, told The Gazette somebody in the resort will die unless the Government takes steps to ban them outright.
He said: “The shops shouldn’t be allowed to sell it.
“It’s taking people’s lives and it’s going to start taking more because it’s just getting stronger and stronger.”
The 22-year-old described how he became hooked on legal highs after he was jailed last year.
“I was a cannabis user before but I couldn’t get any in prison,” he said.
“I was offered (legal high) Spice instead – it was all over the place.
“You smoke it like cannabis but it has a totally different effect. You’re on another planet and speaking to people that aren’t there.”
He told The Gazette he was taking Spice – and other legal highs – every single day, often several times a day, while he was inside.
And when he was released from prison in December, he carried on taking the legal high – mistakenly believing it would not show up in drug tests he was required to take by his employer.
The construction worker, who is now free from drugs and holds down a full-time job, said: “I just needed the drugs to function – I couldn’t sleep.
“But I wasn’t getting up. I was just staying in bed all day – I didn’t want to do anything.
“I would have ended up going back to jail and I didn’t want to do that.
“I couldn’t see the effect it was having but my mum and dad could, as well as my mates.
“I’ve seen my mates take it and I’ve seen what it does to them.
“They have swallowed their tongues and stopped breathing, they’ve vomited and lost control of their bowels.”
And he said children are being fooled by the term “legal high” into thinking the drugs are safe to use.
At least 15 children under the age of 16 were treated in hospital last year after taking legal highs, including three pupils at St Mary’s Catholic College, who are thought to have taken a substance called Pandora’s Box.
He warned the substances are currently too easy to get hold of and youngsters will continue to be admitted to hospital suffering the dangerous effects until they are made illegal.
Sarah Hall, a recovery practitioner with drugs treatment service Horizon, described working with a former drug addict, in his 30s, who tried legal highs thinking they were a safe alternative.
She said: “His heart stopped and they had to resuscitate him.
“He was told it was like strong cannabis and paid £5 for little pouch of this green odourless substance.
“He took a couple of drags and all of a sudden he felt really heavily stoned.
“He was hallucinating, experiencing paranoia and frothing from the mouth.
“A friend called 999 and the next thing he knew, he woke up in hospital with wires attached to him.
“He has used class A drugs, including heroin, and he said he’s never felt so scared in his life.”
Shughie Morrison, recovery team coordinator at Horizon, welcomed efforts to address the growing problem in Blackpool – and said Government efforts to ban legal highs cannot come soon enough.
He said: “Services are not set up to deal with legal substances. We are dealing with an unknown quantity.
“The drugs we work with, we have research and facts and figures.
“But we have no evidence of what these legal highs will do long term.”
And he warned the huge numbers of new substances continually coming to the market make it difficult to keep up.
Mr Morrison added: “We are fire fighting constantly –it’s impossible for the traditional work forces to be in a position to combat the rapid change. It can’t be done.
“We need to be able to respond much quicker but nobody is commissioned to pick up theses cases.
“We have no spare capacity in our system to deal with 10 psychotic episodes a week – it’s a massive drain on resources and the blame is firmly laid at the door of legal highs.”