YMCA Sunderland runs a peer-led education project called Mad 4 U that educates young people and local agencies on the dangers of legal highs.
‘When I was using Cannabis I was spending £40 a day and paying off hundreds of pounds of debts to drug dealers. Spice was cheaper, easy to get hold of and much more addictive. It only took me a week to get hooked’ – Josh, 23, from YMCA Fairthorne Group, in Southampton.
“I’ve seen what addiction to legal highs can do and it breaks my heart. I tried to persuade people I knew using them to get therapy but they kept choosing legal highs instead. In the end, I had to leave them all behind and move on. I haven’t seen that group of friends since,” Emily, 18, from the north east
“I was made homeless twice because of my addition to legal highs. It only took one or two tries for me to get hooked and I would warn everyone now against taking them. I just want to scare people into keeping away,” Paul, 27 from the north east
‘I had dabbled in Cannabis and I wanted to see what legal highs were like but I didn’t know how addictive they were. I had just finished college, I didn’t have a job and I was bored. I would still have bought them if they were banned; if anything, it would have made me more determined to get them,’ Stephen, 23, from Sunderland
“I’m 24-years-old and I’d like to have been living in my own place and to have a career by now” – Anton Taylor, a resident at YMCA Bedfordshire.
‘It’s embarrassing going to the job centre. They need to pay more attention to the details and listen to what young people have to say. I’m a qualified beautician and they keep trying to send me on work experience. It’s rude’ – Grace, 23, a resident at YMCA Birmingham.
Chloe was just three days away from completing her carer’s training course when the news struck: her job centre benefits were about to be cut.
“The job centre is there to help but, often, there’s not a lot they can do. I was job searching with them for two years and, although I got work through them, it was never a career; they just wanted to get me off Jobseeker’s Allowance” – Nathan Tuley, 22, from YMCA Exeter.