LEGAL highs have left 11 people from East Lothian in hospital since May, police have revealed.
One person suffered a “severe reaction” after taking the substances, which have been linked to dozens of deaths.
A fresh warning has now been issued by police, just days after organisers of this weekend’s T in the Park music festival said revellers caught with legal highs would have them confiscated.
The substances – also known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – are being sold throughout the region, police said, and often come marked “not for human consumption” as a tactic to avoid the law.
Produced to give a similar effect to drugs such as Ecstasy, legal highs were implicated in at least 73 deaths in Scotland between 2009 and 2012.
Katy MacLeod, national training and development officer at the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “Vendors will often sell products ‘not for human consumption’ and suggest they are research chemicals, bath salts or incense to try and get round the law.
“There is added risk in the fact that many of them are relatively untested compounds and we therefore have less information about potential harms and long-term effects.”
Side effects can vary from substance to substance, but can range from palpitations, over heating, nausea, vomiting and breathing difficulties.
They can also become particularly dangerous when mixed with other drugs or alcohol and taken in large doses.
Eibhlin McHugh, joint director of the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It is important to remind people that ‘legal’ does not mean ‘safe’.
“These substances can cause serious harm especially when mixed with others such as alcohol.
“The chemicals used in legal highs change frequently so people can never be certain of what they are actually taking.
“In most cases, the products have not been tested, so little is known about how toxic they really are.”
Earlier this year, a teenager escaped a jail sentence despite stabbing a woman he had never met during what he claimed was a legal high-induced “blackout” in Wester Hailes.
Joe Dallas, 16, had binged on cannabis and legal highs for two months before selecting Timea Borsos at random and stabbing her with a seven-inch knife in Hailes Quarry Park on July 29 last year.
Detective Superintendent Pat Campbell said: “We strongly advise people to avoid taking NPS. You can never be sure of what they may contain, what their strength may be or how they may affect you.
“There is no ‘safe’ amount to take and no ‘safe’ way of taking them.
“We cannot stress highly enough that anyone taking any illicit drug or New Psychoactive Substance is potentially putting their life at risk.”
For more information visit the Midlothian and East Lothian Drugs and Alcohol Partnership at www.meldap.co.uk and the Scottish Government’s on-line drug information resource, Know the Score at www.knowthescore.info