I was very intrigued by the presentations of clients seeking help with legal highs or new psycho-active substances. For a period of time, these substances were widely available to the general public through high street retail suppliers. There was an obvious surge in use. But interestingly, most of those seeking help for their use of legal highs were already in contact with substance misuse services. So in general, a wide availability did not translate into the creation of a new treatment seeking population, but compounded difficulties for those who were already vulnerable to substance misuse problems. This fits with the trajectory models of research that I have been involved, in terms of recognizing patterns of involvement in substance use among specific groups of people. (See the papers on young people in the research and consultancy section of this web site for an overview).
A similar pattern was identified in a recent study of students at Oregan University where the sate has legalized cannabis for recreational use. This has seen an increase in cannabis use in the student population, but largely among those who were already heavy drinkers. For a review of the research click here.