Educating young people about the potential lows of 'legal highs'

21 Jun 2013
by Claire Windebank

Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time helping to organise an educational seminar to raise awareness of the dangerous and destructive impact of legal highs. Here’s why... 

Helping a vulnerable young person to make a stable and successful transition to an independent adulthood is never easy. It takes time. It takes patience and it takes a lot of hard work along the way. 

My staff and I work with some of the most challenging 16-25-year-olds in the East Midlands and, in the face of huge challenges, deliver life-changing results time and again by offering them stable accommodation and access to a brighter future. 

Much of that work is about overcoming or removing barriers to progress. This can be as simple as helping someone move to a different area (away from old friends and old temptations) or as complex as tackling a long-standing mental health issue. 

Just one of the many brands of legal highs we come accross. This very clearly is not sold as a 'herbal incense'.

It is, then, particularly frustrating when we see this progress interrupted or derailed entirely by the cynical introduction of a new barriers by the sellers of so-called legal highs – potent chemical compounds designed to imitate illegal drugs. 

Sold in vibrant packages, and with names like Black Mamba, Exodus and Clockwork Orange, they are very clearly marketed at young people. The sellers and producers, who claim their products to be “research chemicals” or “herbal incenses”, take advantage of a legal grey area to legitimise their activities. 

Sadly, it is left to my staff to deal with the day-to-day impact of this trade: the lethargy; the erratic or aggressive behavior; the depression and other side effects. On a couple of occasions residents have even been rushed to hospital. 

I know of one young girl in Lincoln who lost her part-time job and college place as a direct consequence of legal highs. Thanks to the help and support of staff she has now turned a corner and is preparing not only to re-enroll at college, but also to attend university. My worry is that other vulnerable young people will not prove so resilient. 

The government has tried clamp down on their distribution by criminalising certain substances but it simply can’t keep ahead of what is now a multi-million pound market.

We recognise that this is not a problem that can be wished away, so we have decided to launch a campaign of education and advice to inform young people who have taken, or are thinking of taking, these substances of the serious potential health and social (some apparently “legal” substances are actually illegal and may result in a criminal sanction)   consequences they may have on them. 

Legal highs are causing real damage to real people and the time to act is now.

Watch our legal high seminar video below


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