Sunderland student helps tackle problem of legal highs

Justice Minister David Ford with PhD student Louise Jones. Pic: Simon Graham/Harrison Photography.

Justice Minister David Ford with PhD student Louise Jones. Pic: Simon Graham/Harrison Photography.

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A Sunderland woman has helped devise a new approach for rapidly identifying legal highs.

Louise Jones, a student from Sunderland, who is currently undertaking a PhD at Queen’s University Belfast, has helped develop the new approach to quickly screen for novel psychoactive substances (NPS).

The former Monkwearmouth Academy student has worked alongside Professor Steven Bell in conjunction with Forensic Science Northern Ireland.

Published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analyst, the new approach will now enable statutory agencies to identify the actual substances contained within the legal highs more quickly, thereby enabling more prompt public health messages to be issued out to communities.

Legal highs are substances used like illegal drugs, and have been responsible for a growing number of deaths in the UK over the last decade.

Louise said: “There have been many instances of highly dangerous variants appearing, causing multiple fatalities before the threat they posed was recognised.

“As a result of the new approach devised at Queen’s, we predict that we will be able to identify many more substances and at a much more rapid pace as our work in this area progresses.”

Praising the work to date on the new approach, Justice Minister, David Ford, said: “The importance of this valuable work cannot be overstated.

“Legal highs continue to be a major problem on our streets and because so many compounds are available, it is very hard to keep ahead of those producing them.”