Angelus’ Success in Campaigning to Tackle Open Sale of ‘Legal Highs’

legal highs

We all want our children to stay safe and well so that they live to fulfill their life potential and lead happy lives. These days young people face many challenges during their teenage years and the party substances known as ‘legal highs’ are high on the list of pitfalls as many believe they are safe because they have been legal.

Following an intense six year campaign, the team at the Angelus Foundation welcomes the Government plans to legislate against the sale of new psychoactive substances, which most young people call ‘legal highs’. Angelus has led the call for a strong legal response to the easy availability of these legal substances and has long campaigned for fundamental measures to disrupt the supply of these legal drugs.

The Psychoactive Substances Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech last week, should effectively shut down the high street trade in ‘legal highs’. Angelus surveys have shown a deeply concerning level of experimentation with ‘legal highs’ with as many as 13.6% of 14-18 year old school students and 19% of University Freshers had tried one.

However, as well as legislative changes, there is a vital need to increase public awareness of these harmful substances. There must be a greater commitment from central and local Government, schools and universities, to giving the education which young people need to stay safe from these substances.

The legal change cannot be expected to extinguish the market entirely; it is not a perfect solution. Some internet trade will remain so it is vital the legal changes are combined with a sustained public awareness campaign. Last week, five students at Lancaster University were hospitalised after collapsing from the effects of synthetic cannabis. Our surveys show young people are still unwittingly taking huge risks by experimenting with legal drugs, often believing they are safe because they are legal. Angelus is determined to build up young people’s knowledge and resilience to prevent further tragedies from taking these harmful products. Our website is a dedicated website where young people can find comprehensive non-judgemental information. Our schools’ surveys show that over 94% of pupils aged 14 – 18 change their outlook on ‘legal highs’ when they watch the short film ‘Not What it Says on the Tin’.

Most parents are in the dark too as little information is readily available to build their knowledge base. They often have little idea that several new substances are trickling onto the market each week and their children may be at risk of being harmed. In addition to the free handbook that can be downloaded from the Angelus website and the film for parents ‘Not What It Says on the Tin, Angelus is soon launching a community with a series of films, including celebrities and experts, to allow parents to access the information they need to keep their children safe.

You can register to join the community prior to the launch and we will let you know when we are ready to get you started on the journey. Please email us at

Please also read the Sunday Times article from 31 May 2015.

ITV Report – More Dangerous than Legal Drugs – Wales – 18 March

Click the link here to watch ITV report on Welsh Government findings around legal substances.

“I would say in my personal opinion yes they are as much of a concern and in fact we need to be even more worried because we don’t know what’s in the drugs, we don’t know what’s in each packet that comes along, we don’t know the strength of it, we don’t know the chemicals in there and we don’t know the lasting effects and the danger that’s being done.”


Dr Nicola Newton

Dr Nicola Newton is a clinical psychologist, formerly at Kings College now a Senior Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). She specialises in drug prevention. Here, Nicola tells Angelus Founder, Maryon Stewart, about drug education, research and intervention.

Government Advisers Report on Laughing Gas (N2O) – 5 March

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs’ (ACMD) Technical Committee has considered the emerging issue of nitrous oxide abuse after the British Compressed Gases Association (BCGA) raised its concerns on this abuse to the ACMD.

Whilst the harmfulness of nitrous oxide does not seem to warrant control under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the ACMD has been compelled to offer this public health safety advice as a part of its remit.

Home Office Drugs Misuse data for 2013-2014 indicated that 7.6% of 16-24 year olds in England and Wales reported nitrous oxide use in the past year, making it the second most popular recreational drug after cannabis.

There has been a recent upsurge in the recreational use of nitrous oxide and it is now commonly available in certain clubs and increasingly at music festivals, where it is often purchased in the form of gas-filled balloons.  A number of festivals have a “no legal highs” policy, though there appears to be a tolerance to the sale and availability to nitrous oxide.

When inhaled, the gas induces a brief period of euphoria, which may be accompanied by “tears of joy.” This appears to be due to a brief activation of opiate systems in the brain.  Users often wish to repeat their positive experiences with the gas, although there is no firm evidence of physical dependence. Nitrous oxide is an asphyxiant at high concentrations. At lower concentrations, exposure may cause central nervous system, cardiovascular, hepatic, hematopoietic, and reproductive effects in humans.

It appears to have few, if any, short term adverse effects, other than mild headaches for some individuals. Long term abuse can cause peripheral sensory neuropathies. Long term abuse can also cause vitamin deficiency and related anaemia as a result of the inactivation of Vitamin B12 in the body by the gas.

Deaths linked to nitrous oxide are rare (~15 deaths per year in USA; 1 in the UK in 2011 and 5 in the UK in 2010). These have been due to asphyxiation resulting from hypoxia (lack of oxygen). A number of the deaths involved the use of nitrous oxide in an enclosed space.


For full report click here.