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 www.whynotfindout.org.uk 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.
Please also read the Sunday Times article from 31 May 2015.