This week, YMCA releases its latest research report, The Big Ban Theory.
In the largest project of its kind looking into the impact and use of legal highs among young people, YMCA sets out 14 recommendations to Government, asking them to look beyond the Psychoactive Substances Act, due to come in place on Thursday 26 May, to help reduce the harm suffered by many young people at the hands of legal highs.
Our recommendations come directly from what young people across England and Wales have told us.
And below, they have their say once more, describing in detail how legal highs have affected them and detailing what needs to be done to ensure they and their peers are adequately supported going forwards.
Why did you start to take legal highs?
“You want to do what everyone else is doing, of course you do. You might not want to admit it, you don’t want to say I’m doing it so I have friends or whatever but that’s what society is at the minute – there are drugs everywhere. It’s not a nice place to be but that’s what it is,” Mercy, 18, from Yorkshire.
“It’s ridiculously cheap [online]. I guess that’s one of the main reasons we got it, because it was so cheap, we got so much of it and it was so powerful that you know it was almost in a way worth it, because it was better bang for buck than weed,” Antony, 18, from Yorkshire
How did the legal highs you took impact on your life?
“If it wasn’t for legal highs I would probably still be in school,” Emily, 18, from the north east.
“[I was taking] Black Mamba, Synth, Psy-Clone, and Pandora’s Box – I think that was the worst one. After seven months I started realising I was getting really badly addicted to it and I ended up in hospital on a life support machine like with those things attached to me testing my heart and testing my blood pressure. It just ruined my life, that’s about it really,” Callum, 17, from Yorkshire.
“There are so many times that I’ve felt like throwing myself in front of a train, I’ve stood there and thought ‘it would be so much easier if I just died’. That’s the kind of feeling you get, that’s just the comedown,” Liam, 20, from the north east.
“When you ain’t got Spice, you’re constantly thinking how you can get money for Spice,” Jade, 23, from the south east of England.
What needs to be done to reduce young people’s use of legal highs?
“If you want to reduce people taking drugs then you’ve got to fully inform them of what it’s like instead of just demonising it,” Seb, 22, from the East Midlands
“It’s harder to get drugs off your doctor than it is from your drug dealer,” Ben, 20, from Yorkshire
How hard was it to stop using legal highs, like Spice?
“I started researching it when I started getting all the symptoms from not having it [Spice], and then that’s when I actually realised that the withdrawals are actually really similar to Heroin, and I thought to myself ‘like, I don’t want to be doing Heroin’,” Jay, from the south east of England
“If they got told by someone like an adult, some mid-thirties person, they think they are being spoken down to and are just going to ignore them. If you speak to them on a one-to-one level, with someone round about the same age or who knows what they are talking about, they are going to be able to connect to them,” Stephen, 23, from the north east.
“I’ve quit [Spice] before and the flu symptoms lasted for four-days, it was the worst four days of my life, I felt like slitting my wrist, I felt like killing people, I felt like killing myself,” Josh, 21, from the south east of England.
Read The Big Ban Theory.