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What are the signs and symptoms of ‘legal high’ addiction?

New psychoactive and illicit substances (‘legal highs’) are synthetic substances that have been engineered to mimic the effects of other illegal drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy/MDMA, and even prescription medication. In addition, these substances also contain a wide range of unknown chemicals, that haven’t undergone the testing that is needed to understand how they interact with the human brain and body. As such, these drugs are associated with a wide range of effects and symptoms, which can vary depending on the type of so-called ‘legal high’ that you are addicted to, the amount of the drug that you have been taking, as well as being unique to each individual.

At Life Works, our expert team are dedicated to providing evidence-based treatment for anyone who is struggling with an addiction to new psychoactive and illicit substances, helping you to address the underlying causes for your destructive addiction, and supporting you every step of the way towards getting your life back on track.  

The following are all signs that you, or someone that you know, may have developed a dependency on so-called ‘legal highs’.

Psychological symptoms of new psychoactive and illicit substance (‘legal high’) addiction can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Mood swings and hostility
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Confusion and paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Experiencing a distorted sense of reality and perception which may cause you to enter a trance-like state, or feel physically and emotionally detached from the world
  • Poor judgement
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus or concentrate
  • Consuming new psychoactive and illicit substances (‘legal highs’) as a way to cope with stress
  • Exacerbation of any existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety or stress
  • Noticeable changes in your personality

Behavioural and social symptoms of ‘legal high’ addiction:

  • Obtaining and using ‘legal highs’ become more important than hobbies or activities that you previously enjoyed
  • Continuing to take ‘legal highs’ despite the negative effects that this has had on your life
  • Finding that you are unable to stop taking the drug, even though you may want to
  • Inability to stop thinking about when, where and how you will obtain your next ‘legal high’ fix, and feeling as though this has taken over your life
  • Disinhibition, leading to risky and erratic behaviour
  • Being secretive and defensive about your use of new psychoactive and illicit substances
  • Avoiding contact with loved ones, leading to social isolation
  • Only associating with other people who are addicted to so-called ‘legal highs’
  • Underestimating the amount of the drug that you are taking
  • Neglecting your responsibilities, and being unable to function effectively in day-to-day life
  • Poor performance and/or attendance at work
  • Becoming unconcerned with your physical appearance and personal grooming/hygiene

Physical symptoms of ‘legal high’ addiction can include:

  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking or are unable to obtain the new psychoactive and illicit substance
  • Finding that you have built a tolerance to the ‘legal high’, meaning that you need to consume this in increasingly higher doses in order to experience the desired effects
  • Intense cravings for the substance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating
  • High body temperature
  • Hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Increased heart rate and heart palpitations
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with motor co-ordination
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, including vivid nightmares and insomnia
  • Diminished or increased appetite, leading to weight changes
  • Unconsciousness, coma and even death

What are the long-term effects of ‘legal high’ addiction?

New psychoactive and illicit substance (‘legal high’) misuse can result in a wide range of serious long-term problems that can wreak havoc in all areas of your life. Long-term consequences may include:

  • Psychosis, leading to long-term mental health conditions such as schizophrenia
  • Problems with the heart and central nervous system, leading to heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Relationship and family breakdowns
  • Job loss and unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Legal problems, including arrest and imprisonment

This page was reviewed by Steve Clarke, Hospital Director, (MSc, NCFED) in 2019 and is scheduled to be reviewed again in 2021.

Contact Life Works Today

To discuss how the Life Works team can help to support individuals and families dealing with legal high drug addiction and for further information on treatment and rehabilitation programmes, please call: 01483 745 066 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT.

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