Legal highs Benzo Fury and NBOMe to be banned by ministers after being linked to deaths

  • Government's drug advisers call for permanent ban on two substances
  • NBOMe to be a outlawed as a class A drug with dealers facing life in jail
  • BenzoFury, dubbed a legal form of ecstasy, to be a class B substance
  • Follows reports of deaths across the country and in the USA
  • Jake Harris, 21, slit his own throat with a wine glass after taking NBOMe
  • Trainee psychologist Jennifer Whiteley, 27, died after taking Benzo Fury

Two legal highs linked to a string of deaths in Britain are to be banned.

The government’s official drugs advisers said NBOMe would be outlawed permanently as a class A substance, meaning dealers could face up to life in prison.

It also recommended that Benzo Fury - once marketed as a legal form of ecstasy – be controlled as a class B substance.

Deadly: A sample of 251-NBOMe - a recently discovered psychedelic substance which is to be banned

Deadly: A sample of 251-NBOMe - a recently discovered psychedelic substance which is to be banned

Both drugs have been subject to temporary bans after concerns about their health effects.

Crime prevention minister Norman Baker, who recently took up the post in the last coalition reshuffle, said: ‘I am grateful to the ACMD for its advice on Benzofury and NBOMe and we will respond in due course.’

NBOMe, known on the street as N-Bomb and Smiley Paper, is a popular club drug mainly bought over the internet.

Its effects, which can last six to 10 hours, include euphoria and feelings of love but also confusion, shaking, nausea, insomnia and paranoia, the ACMD said.

Last week an inquest heard how father-to-be Jake Harris died after slitting his own throat with a broken wine glass when he suffered a devastating reaction to the drug.

The 21-year-old is said to have gone 'crazy' at an all-night party after taking a mind-bending drug known as N-Bomb.


Death: Jake Harris, 21, was said to have gone 'crazy' at an all-night house party in Manchester

Jake Harris, 21, is said to have gone 'crazy' at an all-night party after taking a mind-bending drug known as N-Bomb.

As he was suffering terrifying hallucinations, Mr Harris, a leisure centre lifeguard, was heard shouting and pleading: 'I want it to stop.'

He then broke a wine glass on a bedside cabinet and used a thick shard to slice his throat open.

An inquest heard that Mr Harris and friend Steven Higgins, 27, had gone to a party at the luxury flat of Heather Turner, 28, near Manchester city centre.

The court was told she had already picked up some cocaine and vodka to share with revellers but Mr Higgins supplied the N-Bomb drug to his friend. He believed it was LSD and said he wanted to 'test' its effect before visiting the Glastonbury festival.

N-Bomb is also known to have killed at least five people in US states including Arizona, North Dakota and Louisiana.

NBOMe was temporarily banned in the UK just days after the incident and has also been blamed for half a dozen deaths in the US.

Surrey Police reported the death of an 18-year old man in February, which is thought to be related to NBOMe although this is awaiting confirmation, while Avon and Somerset Police have reported a death where a 22-year old man drowned after taking the drug.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has recommended that compounds of the drug, seen as an alternative to the hallucinogen LSD, are controlled as class A substances.

This is the most serious category with possession punishable by a jail term of up to seven years.

Earlier this year, seven intoxication cases linked to NBOMe were identified in hospitals across the north east of England, including two patients who needed intensive care.

Evidence from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), which was recently taken into the new National Crime Agency (NCA), suggests large amounts of the drug have already arrived in the UK for distribution in blotter and powder form.

The substance appears to have arrived via a well-established link to producers of the drug in China, the ACMD said.

NBOMe is also potentially a highly profitable drug, the drug advisers said, since a relatively small amount of powder can generate many doses at prices between £2 to £4 - with up to 20 million doses available from just 1kg.

The ACMD also recommended that BenzoFury be banned as a class B drug.

It is often sold as powder or as tablets, known as pellets, with powder sold at GBP35 a gram and pellets GBP10 each.

Earlier this year, psychology graduate Jennifer Whiteley, 27, died after she took ‘bombs’ of BenzoFury at her family home.

Ten ‘legal highs’ were identified last year for the first time in the UK by a specialist Government system that targets music festivals and tobacco shops.

A total of 27 new psychoactive substances - also known as legal highs - have now been detected by the Home Office's Forensic Early Warning System (FEWS) since it was set up in January 2011.

Official figures also showed the number of deaths involving legal highs soared by 80% last year to 52, from 29 in 2011.

Earlier this year, ACMD chairman Professor Les Iversen warned Britain is being swamped by a 'potentially dangerous’ influx of new legal highs.

And a United Nations report found the UK to be the largest market for legal highs in the European Union.


Tragedy: Jennifer Whiteley died of an accidental drug overdose while celebrating her new NHS job with boyfriend Andrew Tunnah

Tragedy: Jennifer Whiteley died of an accidental drug overdose while celebrating her new NHS job with boyfriend Andrew Tunnah

A psychologist who was celebrating the offer of a job working with drug addicts died after taking a legal high bought from a notorious website.

Jennifer Whiteley, 27, took Benzo Fury with her boyfriend, which he had bought on online drugs marketplace The Silk Road.

At an inquest into the death of the former A-star pupil’s death, her parents said they were shocked she had taken drugs as it was completely out  of character.

Her mother, Claire Whiteley,  condemned those who peddle legal highs.

‘I just want to publicise as much as possible as to how dangerous it is and that people who are selling them don’t give a toss,’ she said.

‘All they want to do is make more money. They’ve made millions out of these. People now think that it’s not going to happen to us. It obviously happens to us.’

The inquest heard Andrew Tunnah, Miss Whiteley’s boyfriend of eight years, bought the drug legally on The Silk Road in January. Web users could purchase any kind of drugs on the website, which was shut down by the FBI last month.

Mr Tunnah bought 5APB and 5MAPD – 5APB is also known as Benzo Fury. Miss Whiteley – who was working as a mental health carer and had seen her articles published in the Journal of Health Psychology – received a job offer from the Pennine Trust in Lancashire in July.

She decided to spend the weekend celebrating at her parents’ house in Sale, Greater Manchester, with Mr Tunnah while her parents were away.

Miss Whiteley consumed both 5APB and 5MAPD as well as cocaine and a small amount of alcohol. At about 5am Miss Whiteley started sweating profusely and collapsed after going into the bathroom to cool down.

She was unconscious when an ambulance arrived and died the next day.

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