14 Jul 2014 Treboeth teenager hooked on legal highs warns of dangers

A TEENAGER who is hooked on a legal high he buys over the counter in Swansea has warned others to steer clear of the substance which is blighting his life.

Corey Watts, from Treboeth, has been taking Exodus Incense for 10 months and he says his addiction to the stuff is ruining his life.

The 18-year-old said: "It has a similar effect as weed in that a joint makes me sleepy but when I wake up I feel very anxious and I really need more. The addiction is really strong. I would say it is like heroin. It affects your sleep patterns — mine are all over the place."

Since he started taking Exodus Incense, which he says he has been buying in the city since he was 17, he has been asked to leave his father's house because of his behaviour, he has had to leave his grandmother's house, and he is now living with his aunt.

He said: "I'm trying to get off it and I think it is wrong that you can get hold of legal highs so easily. I've spent about £60 or £70 a week on the stuff."

His aunt, who did not want to be named, said the family was beside itself with worry over Corey.

"These things aren't safe," she said. " It is like Miaow Miaow isn't it? Just because they are legal it doesn't mean they are safe, because you don't know what is in them.

"It is appalling that you can buy them so easily in the town. He's been in trouble with the law because he has stolen to get the money to buy the stuff."

Rob Barker, training coordinator at Swansea drug use reduction charity Sands, says no-one should be fooled by the legal high tag into thinking these substances are less potent than mainstream drugs — they are often far more powerful.

He said: "These legal highs tend to contain synthetic cannabinoids, replicating the THC, the psychotic element in natural cannabinoids. But with the synthetic substances they are often far more intense, so we do see the adverse effects of using these can be much worse than in cannabis.

"And obviously we won't know about the long term effects on health for some years."

And, he said, while these highs might be legal they often contain illegal drugs and sellers cannot give any dosing or usage advice — that is a major concern.

"Because legal highs are marked 'not for human consumption' — that is how sellers get around the law — it is illegal for them to give advice on harm reduction.

"So if a novice drug taker asks how it should be used, the seller cannot say.

"So users may not be aware how potent these substances are and they can easily take too much."

While Rob says it would be overstating things to talk of an epidemic in Swansea, the UK is a hot spot for these legal highs, and he urges concerned users or their families to seek help, which is available at Swansea's Sands, The Place, and at Dan 24/7 on 0808 808 2234.

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