This week, a 10-year old boy is critically ill after having drunk a full bottle of poppers, or alkyl nitrite. Alkyl nitrate, or amyl nitrite, is a not-unpopular drug that dilates the blood vessels and allows more blood to get to the heart. It delivers a short, sharp high and is often used for enhanced sexual experiences – but can also burn body tissues and even cause death if used by individuals with heart problems.
The boy, having bought the small bottle in a shop, believed that the bottle was an energy shot, which is understandable considering how similar a small Liquid Gold amyl nitrate bottle looks to energy shot bottles. Under the UK’s 1968 Medicines Act, it is illegal to advertise substances such as poppers as being for human consumption, which is why bottles tend to be labelled as ‘air odorizers’, and other legal highs are advertised as being ‘bath salts’, ‘plant food’, or ‘herbal incense’.
The incident highlights the importance of young people being aware of the potentially extreme dangers of legal highs, without equating the word ‘legal’ with ‘safe’. The number of deaths rose sharply from 29 in 2011 to 52 in 2012; This is significantly more than even the height of ecstasy fatalities in the 90s, which averaged around 20 deaths per year.
Here at the Fast Forward office, Development Officers Emile and Laura who deliver sessions to specialist schools around Edinburgh report that many young people are closely familiar with legal highs. However, according to Emile, who prefers to use the term ‘New Psychoactive Substances’ rather than legal highs, the majority of young people he meets who have tried them “speak very negatively about them”. They report “unexpected trips, and side effects which they didn’t enjoy.” He continues, “Young people who take drugs still want an element of security and knowledge about specifically what they’re taking, which they don’t get from NPS’s.”
It is crucial, however, that the vast majority of young people are aware of the more significant dangers of legal highs without having to experiment with them first.
For more information on akyl nitrite, please visit Crew2000.
To have a look at Fast Forward’s youth work materials which are available to buy, click here.