Dangers of Legal Highs Highlighted after Accidental Overdose

Illegal drugs and prescription medication can be very addictive, and many addicted individuals around the country are struggling to overcome these illnesses. However, there is another threat facing young people, and one of which many are oblivious to the dangers. This threat comes in the form of so-called ‘legal highs’.

The term ‘legal’ creates the false impression that these substances are safe to take, but the reality is that legal highs are far from safe. In fact, many of the ingredients contained in legal highs are not fit for human consumption and are highly dangerous.

Accidental Overdose

Alison Elrington knows all too well the dangers of legal highs after her son died from an accidental overdose. Tom Elrington was affected by social anxiety and began buying drugs online to help him cope. Tom took a cocktail of drugs and was found dead at his home in Suffolk by his flatmate. His parents want more education about the dangers of drugs bought online and are hoping they can raise awareness.

Mrs Elrington said she became worried about the welfare of her son around three years ago when she noticed that small packages were arriving for him by post. She said, “Tom would get these little padded envelopes in the post. I started intercepting them and e-mailed two websites to tell them my son nearly died, but I never got a response.”

She spoke of how easy it is to source both legal and illegal drugs online and added, “They are really cheap. You can get quite a lot for a few pounds, and they do next day delivery and just send them in the post.”


Tom developed an addiction to the drugs he was buying and spent three months in a private treatment centre in Bury St Edmunds before returning home. Mrs Elrington wants more done to help those suffering from addiction and said, “There is such a problem in society with addicts being treated as though they are criminals. They need support and understanding so they can tackle their problems.”

After leaving rehab, Tom relapsed and started buying drugs online again. However, his sister Rosie said that Tom was still attending support meetings and added, “Rehab isn’t a quick fix, but he was in a good place.”

Tom was found dead in his flat on March 11th (2016) with a variety of drugs, including legal highs, found at the scene.

Dangers of Legal Highs

There have been growing concerns regarding legal highs for some time now, especially as they have been linked to a number of deaths. These substances are created to mimic the effects of certain illegal drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine. They are sold as plant foods, bath salts and incense, and are often swallowed, smoked or snorted. Some people have been injecting them, which can be extremely dangerous.

The Government has proposed a blanket ban on all psychoactive substances, which will make it illegal to sell or possess these substances. However, many believe this will just move the trade of ‘legal’ highs underground.

The biggest danger of legal highs is that nobody really knows what they are taking. Manufacturers use a host of dangerous substances when creating these drugs and often replace ingredients with something more dangerous when a particular ingredient is banned. This means that those who take a legal high once cannot be guaranteed that it will contain the same ingredients the next time they take it. They could, therefore, have a bad reaction to something that they did not react to the first time. This in turn makes it harder for medical professionals to treat those who have taken legal highs; they just do not know what has been taken and are often unable to identify the correct treatment as a result.


  1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12201842/Doctors-son-died-after-accidental-overdose-of-cocktail-of-drugs-bought-online.html
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