Legal highs: safe and legal heavens? : A study on the diffusion, knowledge and risk awareness of novel psychoactive drugs among students in the UK. ["Legal highs": paradisi sicuri e legali? Uno studio sulla diffusione, conoscenza e consapevolezza del rischio delle nuove droghe psicoattive tra gli studenti del Regno Unito].
Background. The recent emergence of new recreational drugs, combined with the ability of the Internet to disseminate information quickly, have raised a number of concerns in the fields of drug policy, substance use research, and public health. Methods. A semistructured questionnaire was advertised on The Study Room’s website from November to December 2010 to explore the awareness, the use and the perception of risks of “legal highs” among student population in the UK. Results. One-third (31.40%) of the 446 participants reported use of these kinds of drugs. Respondents were more likely to have taken were: mephedrone (41.4%), Salvia divinorum (20%), “Spice drugs” (10.7%), methylone (1.4%), naphyrone (NRG) (2.1%) and benzylpiperazine (BZP) (2.1%), while 15.7% did not know what compounds they had ever consumed. The large majority (78.9%) considered these as legal substances, while 74.2% did not consider these safer than illicit drugs. Half (50.8%) of the respondents were aware of the presence of illegal agents in the products they had consumed. Conclusions. The study contributes to an initial assessment of the use and the risks awareness of novel psychoactive compounds among students in the UK. Further research is required, especially in terms of personality and lifestyle attitudes to better profile these new forms of abuse also in non-recreational settings