My experiences with legal highs were not pretty

‘I almost cut off my hand because I thought it was a loaf of bread’

Today, The Times reports that legal highs are causing rising numbers of murders, suicides and assaults in prisons. On the outside, there are many teens and young adults spending their weekends consuming substances of dubious origin and uncertain chemical make-up.

One formerly heavy user of legal highs told The Tab their story.


China White, Charlie, Charles, Pink Champagnes, Snow Blow, Snow White, Benzo Fury, Pink Panthers. These are just a few of the legal highs I experimented with in my teens.

At 15, I started dabbling. The fucked up thing was that they were much easier to get a hold of than anything else: for example, getting alcohol required us to find those of age to buy it for us  (which was actually a lot harder than you think), whereas legal highs merely required a click of a button to deliver straight to your doorstep.

And hell, they were legal. Surely they couldn’t be as bad as the normal drugs everyone else was taking, right?

Photo: Tanjila Ahmed

That was what I thought, at least. Head shops would sell “experimental drugs not fit for human consumption” to an audience who had no idea what they were taking. Many were classified as “plant food” online to get around any restrictions.

A bag costing £5 typically contained around 2g of powder that you could take in a wide variety of ways. Ours was bombing it – putting small piles of it in a Rizla [cigarette paper] and swallowing it. Before we realised you could use Rizla, we used toilet paper which, due to the moisture in our mouth, usually crumpled before we swallowed the bomb. It left a very nasty chemical taste in the mouth, that’s likely comparable to spraying Cilit Bang down your throat.

At the time, I had no real clue what I was doing to myself – but I would safely say that using these legal high substances is as damaging, if not more so, than class A drugs.

Each weekend, my friends and I would browse a catalogue online of the different types of highs, which had been rated by forums by other users. We read a story about Benzo Fury causing a woman to parade naked in a nearby Tesco and rather than being put off, we couldn’t think of anything better to do. That was our mentality. Why? Because we were hooked.

I remember a time when I stayed up for 40 hours taking “China White” – and to this day even saying its name conjures the taste in my mouth when the bomb split. It started at a friend’s house party on a Friday. We were taking it and having fun. The next day we were going to the rugby, and I was sweating so much that when I drunk a beer, I almost fainted.

It continued: that night we went to a house party. I hallucinated, believing I’d seen my friend’s face take the place of everyone else’s. During this whole time, I hadn’t slept.

I have had friends who have almost had heart attacks. I have played hide and seek while on legal highs and remained in my hiding place for hours after the game had finished, paralysed and confused. I almost cut off my hand because I thought it was a loaf of bread.

The point is, that legal highs are beyond fucked. You don’t feel in control and it really fucks with your system. As weird as it sounds, my experimentations with MDMA and weed were amazing because I knew what to expect. But legal highs were always like Russian roulette.

People shouldn’t even dabble. These are substances whose ‘recipe’ changes almost daily to get around the law. It’s much easier to change the chemical compound of something than to pass legislation, so parliament are backed into a corner.

I’m not even anti-drug. I couldn’t really give a shit what you take, as long as you’re sensible and responsible – but that’s not the case with legal highs. When you’re taking them, it’s an experiment – and you’re the guinea pigs.

*Told anonymously to The Tab.