Pretty Vacant

Far be it from me to question the intelligence of the patients ambulance crews deal with on a daily basis. What I will never understand is why anyone would put something into their body not knowing what it will do to them?!

I’m talking about the evil known as the “legal high”. A mix of things unknown to anyone but the twisted manufacturer, made into a tablet or powder, packaged in a colourful bag and given an attractive name, then sold in any unscrupulous newsagent or corner store. Everyone reacts differently to these concoctions, sometimes fatally!

These things seemed to go through phases of popularity and we were often called to…patients (yes, I’m biting my tongue) having adverse reactions to the latest ones to hit the shelves. Symptoms ranged from tachycardia to hyperventilation, although the latter was generally a result of the panic brought on by other symptoms causing the patient to believe they were dying.

Our biggest problem was that we had no idea what was causing the tachycardia or other, genuine, symptoms. Panic attacks could be calmed, but we still didn’t know the contents of the substance, and neither did the patient. This caused further concern at the hospital as they didn’t know what to treat. There was no toxicology report available for “Screaming Banshee” or “Red Dragon”….

Every time the patient would show us the wrapper the offending substance came in. Short of a name, there was no further information. No ingredients, no manufacturer or supplier details. The retailer didn’t care, it wasn’t their responsibility and it was perfectly legal to sell.

Every time we would ask the patient if they knew what it would do to them. Every time the answer was the same – “No. Am I going to die?”. Sometimes we had to restrain ourselves, fighting the urge to reply “Maybe”. Sometimes harder than others. We would often ask the patients why they took an unknown substance, not knowing what it would do to them, or even if it would kill them? The response was usually shrugged shoulders orbmumbled variations of “I dunno”. We’d then ask why they were so surprised when it did bad things to them, and why they’d called an ambulance. Once again, the shoulders and “dunno”.

Now I’m no longer in the job, I can say what I think. Nobody asked anyone to buy it, there’s no addiction (apparently) and no one forced anyone to put the stuff in their bodies. But it must take a pretty gormless person, to waste everyone’s time for an outcome nobody can predict, to take an emergency crew off the road to deal with them, and to actually pay someone (who doesn’t actually care if they live or die) for the experience.

I make no apology for saying any of this. If it causes offence you are missing the point. Just ask any ambulance crew who have dealt with these jobs!

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