The 2013 street drug survey from DrugScope, the UK's leading drug information charity, highlights the health risks faced by young people experimenting with drugs designed to mimic illegal drugs and evade the drug laws, often called 'legal highs' or new psychoactive drugs. The survey also revealed that many high street outlets are selling these drugs, not just 'head shops' and internet websites.

The survey, to be published in DrugScope's magazine Druglink, gathered information from 25 agencies in England, Scotland and Wales to create a snapshot of the nature of new drug use among young people and how agencies were responding.

The survey revealed that:

  • Mephedrone-type stimulant drugs were popular with older teenagers;
  • Younger teenagers were more attracted by the synthetic cannabinoids substances with lurid names such as Clockwork Orange and Exodus Damnation;
  • Few young people bought drugs online, but were able to buy not only from head shops, but a range of high street outlets including petrol stations and take-away food shops, especially in the north of England;
  • While few young people were coming forward to treatment services, outreach workers told a different story about patterns of use and of young people at risk of serious health consequences.

Martin Barnes, DrugScope's Chief Executive, said; 'While overall figures for drug use among young people have been coming down, the drug scene is clearly in transition, as newer drugs gain traction, primarily because they are legal, although when tested, many are found to contain substances that have already been banned. There are many worrying accounts of young people being hospitalised with potentially life-threatening symptoms of high body temperatures, convulsions and seizures. Yet, despite temporary banning orders and generic 'catch-all' drug legislation, the control mechanisms are struggling to keep abreast of the situation, even when drugs are being sold on the high street, let alone when they are coming through the post. There is no magic bullet, but the importance of accessible and credible information needs to be underlined, and young people's services are increasingly having to find different ways of providing help and support."