Warning to pupils over dangers of lethal legal highs

A collection of legal highs
A collection of legal highs

Wakefield Council is launching a new campaign to warn young people about the dangers of so-called legal highs.

It comes after a survey found children as young as 13 across the district had admitted taking the new psychoactive substances (NPS).

Legal highs are an imitation of existing drugs including heroin, cocaine, speed and cannabis.

With a clever tweak in their chemical make-up, they can’t be classed as unlawful but they are just as lethal as their illicit counterparts.

The campaign, which will be launched next year, will highlight the risks of the substances and help young people who have become dependent on the drugs.

A report to the council’s caring for our people overview and scrutiny committee said an estimated 670,000 people aged 16 to 24 in the UK had taken the substances.

Dr Andrew Furber, director of public health at Wakefield Council, said: “These substances are a concern.

“As these are new and emerging substances there is currently only limited national research into how they affect people - but they have been linked to mental health conditions, anti-social behaviour and deaths.

“We do not know the full extent of the issue in our district, however, we are in the early stages of conducting research to better understand these substances and the extent of usage in the district.”

“Our new drug and alcohol recovery service, Inspiring Recovery, is ready to support people who may be affected by these substances.”

The campaign follows calls from West Yorkshire Police, the council and charity Turning Point to make the district the legal high free zone.

They urged shops to stop selling the substances to prevent the first young person in the district from being killed from the drugs that are easily available to buy in the city’s shops or online.

Last year 19 young people in the city received treatment for using the products – an increase from five the previous year. The number of UK deaths linked to legal highs has also risen in recent years – from 10 in 2009 to 68 in 2012.

A Healthy Lifestyles survey found 22 per cent of boys and 11 per cent of girls in years 12 and 13 at schools across the district had been offered NPS.

Of those nine per cent said they had taken the drugs.

The survey also showed five per cent of boys and four per cent of girls in year nine were offered the products, with three per cent admitting to taking them.

NPS are on sale on websites and high streets across the country.

The chemicals are made on an industrial scale in countries like China and India and then distributed throughout Europe.

Suppliers can sell them legally if they write “not for human consumption” on the packets.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions found that 280 new substances were identified between 2005 and 2012.