Rise of Legal Highs #legalhighs

shutterstock_218274139There has been a disturbing global increase in New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) – often called ‘legal highs’ – and nowhere, currently, are they more prevalent than in the UK.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UK has the biggest market for legal highs in the whole of the EU. The World Drug Report states that 670,000 Britons aged 15-24 have tried them at least once.

Legal highs often have similar effects to cannabis, heroin and amphetamines, and are sold as uppers, downers or hallucinogenics on the UK high street and over the internet. Since legal highs cannot be sold for human consumption, they are often sold as plant food, incense, or salts. The trouble is that buyers cannot be certain what the product will contain, and adverse effects cannot be predicted.  These substances are not controlled yet because there is not enough information on them to base a decision. However, ‘legal highs’ are increasingly being researched to identify the dangers and determine if they should be made illegal.

Legal highs have been directly associated with anti-social behaviour, causing some of the same problems as illegal drug use. Some users of legal highs steal to get the money for their fix, and drug-induced behaviour often leads to criminal activity and endangerment.

In Morriston, Swansea, “new psychoactive substances have become the biggest cause of anti-social behaviour”, Councillor Andrea Lewis said. “We had young people behaving erratically, literally running out into the street into oncoming traffic.”

Police forces in Wales have seen incidents involving legal highs increase from 18 in 2012 to twenty times that many: 371 in 2014.

A BBC News investigation discovered that legal highs can be more addictive than some illegal drugs – and are getting stronger. Benzofuran and Mephedrone have even been banned. However, as soon as certain substances are made illegal, new ones are produced and on sale.

Some people are seriously affected by legal highs, and doctors are concerned.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of people going into mental health units with acute psychotic episodes after having taken some of these legal substances,” said Julia Lewis, Clinical Director for adult and specialist mental health services. “We are hearing of quite young people having heart attacks; I treated one 17-year-old boy who’d had a small heart attack on one of these substances.”

To receive help and signposting to organisations offering advice and support with drug issues, contact the BBC Action Line on 08000 680 118

Or contact FRANK, the drugs information agency directly, 24/7/365, on 0300 123 6600

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.


No vote of confidence for young people?

shutterstock_191060654You can easily tell that 2015 is the year of a general election, with political parties slinging mud at one another and vying for votes. They have a lot to achieve in this age of disillusionment and general apathy, in which many people feel disengaged from politics. This problem is much worse in the case of young adults – who “don’t do politics”.

An Ipsos Mori poll in 2010 reveals that the last national average election turnout was 65% of the whole electorate; but only 44% of 18-24 year-olds voted – less than any other age group. So far, there is no real evidence of improvement for this year. Young people have lost interest or don’t care, and are feeling neglected and disenfranchised. If they don’t vote, the political parties won’t make a great effort to win them over – because they are too busy pleasing people who will actually turn up at the polling station to vote.

With 4 million under 25s not even registered to vote, the major political parties are more concerned to promote policies that support older voters. However, many politicians are now overtly trying to attract young people’s votes.

To make informed choices, young people need information. Parents are a considerable influence on young people’s attitudes and voting preferences, but information also needs to be gleaned from school and the media. We live in the Information Age but young people seem to know more about celebrity gossip and cat videos than local, national and global issues. Social media could be harnessed to answer political problems.

Many people say they aren’t interested in politics, without realising that politics is all around them. Scratch beneath the surface, and even the most apathetic person cares about issues that affect them – even if it’s the price of beer, petrol or cigarettes, let alone the NHS or housing, wages, taxes, war and employment. Even if people won’t come to the political arena, politics comes to them. There are issues which deeply affect young people, like the scarcity of jobs and student debt. Skills are being undervalued – with the rise of training schemes, unpaid internships and Welfare to Work schemes, many are expected to work for free, or poor pay. Low wages, zero hours contracts and impossible house prices mean that young people struggle to pay for housing for years – if they can afford to leave the family home at all.

It is young people who face the future created by decision-makers today. They are the ones who will be facing the effects of climate change, poverty, and depletion of resources on a global scale. They will have to deal with the perfect storm of financial, housing, food and energy crises to come. All the more reason why young people should be actively involved in voting on policies and issues that concern them, and making their voices heard.

Will young people realise the importance of making an informed choice – and actually vote?

Politicians tend to care about votes when it comes to making election promises. As long as young people remain disengaged, it won’t pay for politicians to address their issues. Turning out to vote on 7th May – literally voting with their feet – means that their opinions will matter to politicians in future. Young people can become a force to be reckoned with.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.

Arthur Coaching: A call for Resilience #youngpeople #resilience

shutterstock_215232757“That which does not kill us makes us stronger” said Friedrich Nietzsche. There is hope.

Young people today live in a world of high unemployment. In the latest reported UK figures*, 733,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed (a 16.0% unemployment rate). One third of unemployed 16-24 year olds had been unemployed for over 12 months.

Even for young people lucky enough to be employed, or in education or vocational training, there are many personal pressures affecting them; family breakdown, housing problems, peer pressure, examination stress, fierce competition, media insistence on having the perfect body and lifestyle, amongst others.

I often wonder how young people can survive, let alone thrive? How can they possibly build self-confidence and the sense of self-worth in a fast world that changes all the time? How can they respond flexibly to adversity or disappointment? What resources can they use to build successful and fulfilling lives?

In my opinion, an essential skill in gaining mental resilience is self-awareness. Indeed, being aware of ourselves –of how we feel and of what we need– is a big step in taking control over difficult situations. People with self-awareness listen to their body and recognise their emotions. They understand their perceptions and how it affects their behaviour. They understand what prevents them from achieving or from being content and they are in a better position to ask for help.

Unfortunately, self-awareness (or any form of emotional intelligence) is rarely taught at school. That’s right: one of the most powerful tools for self-development is not part of the national curriculum. Isn’t it time we adapted our educational system to the needs of the current and the next generations? Shouldn’t professional life coaching be offered to all young people as they grow?

“Mein Kühlschrank ist kaputt” -“my fridge is broken”- is the first thing I was taught in my German class.

Surely, Nietzsche would agree with me: now is the time to move on to more useful education.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.


*Figures for June-August 2014, reported 15 October 2014 by Aliyah Dar, According to the House of Commons Library note on Youth Unemployment