Ivory Wave: The new "legal high" on the scene

The media have been reporting on a new “legal high” that is being sold in the UK under the marketing name “Ivory Wave.” However the sellers, users or the police do not seem to know what chemical compounds the white powder contains or its legality. Some newspapers are reporting that the mixture contains MDPV, which is currently an illegal class B drug so therefore is not a “legal high.” 

The drug is being marketed on UK based websites as “bath salts” that are “100% legal in the UK” and the instructions for use on one of the websites selling the drug stated “add the contents to a hot bath to naturally soften the water which will leave you feeling very soothed and relaxed.” The manufacturer states that the ingredients are “Epsom Salts, Sodium Barcarbonate, Sodium Chloride, minerals, trace elements and naturally occurring amino acids.” However people posting on Internet forums frequented by stimulant users believe that the mixture contains MDPV as well as other stimulant drugs.

On a forum thread debating the contents of Ivory Wave one user stated, “anyways procured some MDPV recently (the white stuff) and I reckon is defo the active ingredient. MDPV gave me that same push, although the horniness wasn't there could just be set and setting, also did the MDPV after a night out on cocaine, base, a few e's and ketamine! Urgh!”

There is so much lack of information or disinformation surrounding the drug that it would be difficult for someone buying or selling Ivory Wave to know where he stands within the law. More dangerous than that is the danger to the user’s health. After reports of 20 youngsters being hospitalised last week in Scotland health officials were forced to release a public warning stating that “legal highs” can cause kidney failure, seizures, muscle damage and loss of bowel control. Health authorities in Dorset also had to release a similar warning after several people were admitted to hospital after taking the drug.

One user who had experienced the drug posted that 

“To be completely honest, I'm pretty horrified the manufacturer is selling Ivory Wave as a bath salt with absolutely nothing in the way of dosage or harm minimisation information. I think the smallest packet you can get is 200mg - I couldn't fathom what would happen to a skinny 14 year old if they consumed the entire packet trying to get 'legally high' for the first time.”

Many of the experiences posted on the Internet seem very different to the relaxing effect that the bath salts were supposed to have.

One user posted his experience under a post-titled “MDPV? – Euphoria, Dysphoria and Incredible Horniness – !WARNING!” and describes it as a “real adrenal and for me I could see it becoming potentially psychotic with more, and possibly very hard (to the point of being damaging perhaps) on the body.”

The media only adds to the confusion especially using headlines such as Legal high made from bath salts. Not only do they publicise a drug that can be purchased by anyone with access to a credit card but tend to publish misleading and conflicting information that undermines any legitimate warnings from the health authorities.

The recent hysteria over legal highs has shown the inefficiencies of the Misuse of Drugs Act and the UK government’s policies towards drugs. White powder can easily be shipped into Britain labeled as a "legal high" even though the authorities, buyers or the sellers do now know what chemicals are in that particular “legal high.” When a new “legal high” appears on the scene the media get hold of the story and the subsequent hysteria pressures the government into forcing through legislation banning the chemical compound. The problem is that the “legal high” producers can make new chemical compounds faster than the UK government can ban them. Also in many cases producers and sellers of “legal highs” are left with lots of  illegal stock that they mix into their new “legal high” products technically making them illegal. Analysis of five different products sold as 100% legal from online shops found a mixture of different banned substances. Two were made from mephedrone itself mixed with prescription drugs while another contained, MDPV and a lesser known class B drug fluromethcathinone, mixed with lidocaine, an anaesthetic typically used to cut cocaine.

Dr James Dear of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on Monday said: "One producer's could be completely different to another's because things are added. We have to appeal to people not to take it."

Public health expert Jim Sherval, of NHS Lothian, added: "Just because a substance is legal or claimed to be legal, it doesn't mean it's safe. We need to get across the message that these legal highs pose a real danger."

What does seem to be the general trend is that every time a legal high is banned the next one is stronger and more dangerous putting in to context the negative effects of prohibition. The fact that youngsters are going on the Internet and buying what the media is calling legal but is actually illegal is another worrying issue that needs to be addressed. Criminalising young people for possession of small amounts of illegal drugs is already a public policy failure, it is worse when those youngsters are buying that substance in belief that it is legal.