Not all substances that cause intoxication are illegal. The best known and most widely used drug is alcohol. Cigarettes contain addictive nicotine. So not every drug has to be illegal. But they are all harmful.
This also includes the so-called 'legal highs' and natural drugs. The latter are freely occurring and intoxicating substances in nature (mostly plants). The term Legal High is actually misleading, because the substances distributed under different names are illegal, but the legal situation is not always clear due to the concealment of the intended use, e.g. as 'cleaners'.
The danger with legal highs and natural drugs is that it is usually not possible to estimate how high the active ingredient content is or which substances the respective drugs are composed of. The risk of legal highs and natural drugs can be seen from the number of drug deaths that die each year as a result of using legal highs. According to the Federal Criminal Police Office, 98 people died in 2016 as a result of consuming Legal Highs. A year earlier there were only 39.
The Legal Highs are a collective term for various substances that are sold under the names of bath salts, herbal mixtures, air fresheners or plant fertilisers to disguise their use as intoxicants. Herbal mixtures, for example, are sold under the names 'Spice', 'Smoke' or 'Sence'. The packaging usually states that the mixtures are intended for smoking rooms. In the case of herbal mixtures, for example, chemical compounds similar to those of cannabis (synthetic cannaboids) are applied to the dried plants in order to achieve a noise generating effect. The chemical compounds are frequently changed by the manufacturers in the motivation that the new chemical compounds have not yet been included in the narcotics law and can therefore be sold under false pretences. However, the legislator has reacted to this practice and in 2016, with the New Psychoactive Substances Act (NpSG), dropped entire substance groups under the Narcotics Act.
The danger with the consumption of Legal Highs is that the effect often cannot be estimated by the consumers. Adverse side effects such as
- Feelings of anxiety
- Panic attacks and unconsciousness
can be the result.
For example, plants with psychoactive ingredients that produce smoke are called natural drugs. However, a natural plant origin does not mean that they are harmless drugs, quite the opposite. Similar to the so-called 'Legal Highs', the consumption of natural drugs is very dangerous, because the consumers often cannot estimate their effect. The active substance content of natural drugs is also completely unclear, the effect varies greatly from consumer to consumer. Many of the natural drugs have a psychedelic effect – loss of reality and anxiety can result. Since some plants are also highly poisonous, there is an acute danger to life if the dosage is too high.
Natural drugs are often sold via internet shops, where the danger of consumption is often unreadable. Well-known natural drugs include:
- Hawaiian wood rose (also called silverwort or monkey rose)
- Nightshade plants such as angel’s trumpet, belladonna, henbane, jimson weed, etc.
- Psychoactive mushrooms
Some of these natural drugs, such as psychoactive fungi – fungi containing the active ingredient psilocybin – fall under the narcotics law. Trade, possession and acquisition are therefore punishable by law.
Consequences of long-term consumption of legal highs and natural drugs
Since some legal highs and natural drugs contain psychoactive substances, they can lead to psychological addiction. In addition, the psychedelic effect makes the risk of suffering a horror trip particularly high. Anxiety and delusions during the trip can lead to psychosis – even with one-time use.