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Werse B, Mogenstern C. 
“How to handle legal highs? Findings from a German online survey and considerations on drug policy issues”. 
Drugs and Alcohol Today. 2012;12(4):222-231.
Purpose - This article aims to discuss the results on prevalence, patterns of use and motivations for the use of legal high products/new psychoactive substances (NPS) and possible consequences for drug policy.

Design/methodology/approach - The main results are derived from a non-representative quantitative online survey in Germany, focused on persons with experience in legal highs use.

Findings - The general prevalence of legal highs varies considerably in different European countries; generally, it is much lower than the lifetime prevalence of illicit drugs. Almost every legal highs user has experience in the use of illicit drugs. Several types of (repeated) users can be identified. ''Herbal incense'' products are used by many persons in order to compensate for a limited availability of cannabis or to remain inconspicuous for law enforcement. Current research chemicals (RC) users are mainly experienced drug users who seek to expand the range of drugs being consumed with RCs. Repressive drug policy approaches seem to contribute to the use of legal highs as replacement drugs. Social implications - Given that many NPS show side effects that are at least as serious as those associated with illicit drugs, and that long-time risks are unpredictable, repressive drug policy enforcement may lead to increased public health risks regarding drug users.

Originality/value - The survey is the first published quantitative survey focusing on legal highs users. The results have not been published in English yet.

Keywords Legal highs, New drugs, Synthetic drugs, Drug policy, Quantitative research, Drugs, Drug controls, Germany, Europe, Risk analysis
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