Drop in legal high call outs welcomed

Drop in legal high call outs welcomed

A crackdown on so-called 'legal highs' in Newcastle has led to a reduction in the number of emergency call-outs for North East Ambulance Service.

The service saw a massive spike in call-outs to patients who had become seriously unwell as a result of taking New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – otherwise known as legal highs – at the start of this year.

A majority of the calls were for patients in the west end area of Newcastle and on each occasion callers have reported the patients having had a legal high.

Their symptoms ranged from seizures, unconsciousness, shortness of breath, vomiting, aggression, palpitations, agitation and foaming at the mouth.

An ambulance was sent to each incident to convey the patients to hospital.  Many of the patients absconded or refused treatment.

Since then, NEAS has worked with Northumbria Police and Newcastle City Council to educate the public about the dangers of using NPS.

This work has now led to a 63% reduction in the number of incidents. In February (2016) the North East Ambulance Service received 97 calls involving legal highs compared to the 263 they got in January.  The police received 85 calls compared to the 176 in January.

Although positive that the numbers have fallen, and the message is getting across to some people, police in Newcastle say they are not being complacent and will continue to work with partners to keep on top of the issue.

Simon Swallow, Head of Resilience and Special Operations at North East Ambulance Service, said: “These so-called legal highs are not safe to use and carry a serious health risk and are putting people’s lives at risk.

“We raised our operational status to ‘Severe Pressure’ in December as result of growing demand on the service during winter and these call-outs are putting an additional burden on our service by preventing us from being available to attend other life-threatening emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes.

“We are urging people NOT to take these so-called legal highs as they are putting their own lives in danger and also endangering the lives of others because these calls are potentially delaying our response to someone else who is suffering a heart attack or other life-threatening condition.”

Northumbria Police has issued CCTV footage which shows the effect legal highs can have. 

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Copyright 2011 North East Ambulance Service Trust

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