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Page last updated at 09:32 GMT, Friday, 17 October 2008 10:32 UK
Herbal powder 'glamorises drugs'

By Tamasin Ford
Newsbeat reporter

Girls trying Akuz
Akuz, made from guarana and glucose, is snorted up the nose

Drug campaigners have told Newsbeat they're worried a new herbal powder that you take by snorting is glamorising drugs.

Akuz comes in a little blue bottle and works in a similar way to energy drinks.

It's legal but one drug awareness charity, Hope UK, says there's a risk that people who try it may go on to take cocaine.

Akuz is a bright, orange powder, made from guarana and glucose and smells a little like menthol.

It's similar to snuff but it doesn't contain any tobacco.

To use it, you turn a lever on the side and then tap it upside down on your hand.

This releases one shot of the powder into the tip of the bottle. Then you put it up one of your nostrils and snort it.

Each bottle contains around 60 shots.

'Orange snot'

Aimee tried it for the first time in the Barhouse in Chelmsford, Essex, and said she would use it again: "It does feel like some sort of Vicks Sinex stuff where it clears your nose. It's like a breath of fresh air."

Akuz
The girls had mixed opinions on whether they'd try Akuz again

Aimee's friend, Emma, wasn't quite so convinced.

She said: "It felt like it burnt all my nostril hairs out. It's disgusting. It makes your snot go orange."

Drug campaigners are taking it a bit more seriously, saying they're worried it'll make it easier for people to move on to harder drugs.

Snuff is used widely in Europe, so Akuz has gone down well in countries like Germany and Austria.

But there isn't really any sort of snuff culture in the UK.

Student Annabel says when you snort it, it makes you think of harder drugs.

She said: "I think the whole idea of sniffing something makes you instantly link it to drugs.

"I just don't think I'd do it again if I'm honest. I just don't like the idea of it."

'Drug-seeking behaviour'

The charity Hope UK is worried that Akuz glamorises the world of drug-taking.

The bottles come in blue and orange packaging, specifically targeting young people.

Mock-up of someone snorting cocaine
Akuz users could be more likely to try cocaine, say its critics

Drug scientist Alan Morinan says if people are likely to snort Akuz, it could increase the chances of them trying illegal drugs, like cocaine.

He said: "We do know that drug paraphernalia, anything associated with the drug scene, needles or sniffing - all of these can illicit drug-seeking behaviour."

Emma said she'd never wanted to do cocaine, but trying Akuz made the drug seem a bit more innocent.

She said: "Snorting it wasn't actually that bad and it's not that I would ever do coke. But it makes me think it wouldn't be that bad."

Harmless fun

The makers of Akuz say they don't think their product glamorises drugs.

They're hoping it'll push people away from harder drugs, making them choose legal and natural highs instead.

Sue Robinson, one of the company's promoters, says it's just harmless fun.

She said: "They're using something a lot more natural and better for them than drugs.

They're using something a lot more natural and better for them than drugs
Sue Robinson, Akuz promoter

"It's causing a lot of fun out there with youngsters. They enjoy taking it and I don't see there's any harm in it if they're enjoying a natural product."

Some drug charities agree, saying it's all herbal and there's nothing wrong with it.

But two big pub and club groups, Barracuda and Orchid, which run chains like Bar Room Bar and Varsity, are worried about selling it on their premises.

They say they don't want to promote any sort of sniffing culture at all, whether it's herbal or not.

But Sue Robinson, from Akuz, says if people start being open and honest about sniffing herbal highs, it could help stamp out hard drugs.

She said: "If you bring it out in the open and everybody will be doing it and naturally doing it, it might make cocaine not so hip."

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