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.

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Arthur Coaching: Taking a Gamble #gambling #youngpeople

shutterstock_172957583Whether betting on horses, football matches or poker… gambling is big business. But when people get an irresistible taste for gambling, it becomes an addiction – and sadly, young people with gambling problems don’t know where to find help.

Professor David Forrest from the University of Salford says, “Problem gambling is heavily concentrated in 16 to 24-year-olds. Overwhelmingly it’s a male thing, it’s a young person’s thing.”

In 2013, according to the National Centre for Social Research, in England and Scotland 83,000 (73,321 male and 10,083 female) 16-24 year-olds were classed as ‘problem gamblers’.

GamCare, an independent national gambling charity, part-funded by the gambling industry, gives free advice and support by telephone; referring some clients on to its UK-wide network of local counselling centres, where treatment is also free.

Over the last three years, there has been a substantial rise in calls by young people to its National Gambling Helpline, but only 3,000 calls from 18 to 24-year-olds in 2013-14 which is a low figure, given that 83,000 are problem gamblers.

The charities reckon that people don’t seek help because they do not know about the options available or opportunities for help.

“It’s often a secret addiction, It’s not visible like other problems… people don’t want others to know they have this problem,” said Dirk Hansen, Chief Executive of GamCare. “Probably only a small number get specialist help; probably around 10%.”

Other groups, like Rethink Gambling, offer support but there is only one dedicated NHS clinic in the UK: the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London, offering psychological treatment and behavioural therapy. People can self-refer, or their GP or probation officer can refer them.

Of 2,177 people referred there, over 34% were under 30. On arrival at the clinic, their average debt is over £10,000 but overall, they’ve each lost a total of £60,000 on gambling.

Many people feel ashamed and embarrassed to admit to gambling problems – let alone to ask for help. And there is an issue with knowing where to go for help. Unlike drugs and alcohol addictions, services are invisible. As are the dangers and the effects of gambling itself. While schools and public health services widely warn of the dangers of drink and drugs, people are rarely taught about gambling addiction at school.

The Gambling Commission says that all organisations “must have measures in place to minimise any harm caused by gambling. These measures include having information readily available to customers on how to gamble responsibly and where they can get help if they think they have a problem.”

The Association of British Bookmakers, representing betting shops, is planning a responsible gambling campaign for January 2015.

Peter Craske, their spokesman, says: “Staff in shops are trained to interact and will attempt to advise anyone who appears to be exhibiting problem gambling behaviour. Online customers can set deposit limits to manage their accounts, and all bookmakers will offer self-exclusion – the opportunity to ‘ban’ yourself from shops or websites.”

And yet, we might ask, if betting shops are given the responsibility to safeguard people from gambling addiction – whilst making money from gambling – how will that work?

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.