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Legal high groups on the internet: The creation of new organized deviant groups?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Publication details

JournalDrugs: education, prevention and policy
DatePublished - 2014
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)14-23
Original languageEnglish


Aims: To contribute to knowledge about the use of legal highs; the role of the internet in the purchase of legal highs; and to examine whether legal high groups on Facebook are acting as new organized deviant groups (ODGs) by facilitating and supporting the purchase and use of these substances and illegal alternatives.

Methods: Facebook was used to recruit respondents through a ‘legal high survey’ forum. Members of the group were directed to an online survey about their use and purchase of legal highs. The group's chat was monitored over a three-month period to observe their conversations about their use of legal (and illegal) drugs.

Findings: Respondents used legal highs for pleasure, out of curiosity or as an alternative to illegal drugs. Respondents were using illegal drugs and alcohol alongside legal highs. 48% of respondents agreed that they felt fully informed of the recommended dosage when purchasing legal highs online. There was evidence that online groups are acting as ODGs by protecting and neutralizing drug use and by informing and supporting novice users.

Conclusions: Policy makers should be concerned about the degree to which such groups encourage and reinforce the use of new substances, the safety of which is virtually unknown.

Bibliographical note

doi: 10.3109/09687637.2013.769500

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