YMCA Milton Keynes is backing findings from a national research project that warns today’s blanket ban on legal highs will do little to reduce the harm these substances are having on many young people’s lives.
The local charity, which supports over 600 people across Milton Keynes each year, echoes recommendations from YMCA’s The Big Ban Theory report that says the new Psychoactive Substances Act must go further than prohibition and be supplemented with impartial information, advice and specialist support.
Findings from the national report come from a survey of 1,005 16 to 24-year-olds from across all regions of England and Wales, half of whom had taken legal highs, and a range of focus groups.
Of those young people who currently take legal highs, 64% say they would be likely to use them in the future.
57% of young people first start taking legal highs between the ages of 16 and 18-years-old.
Of young people who have ever used legal highs, 94% have friends who have also used them.
68% of those who have taken legal highs name Laughing Gas as the substance they take most commonly.
“YMCA’s status as the largest youth charity in the world puts us in the unique position of being able to recognise the impact legal highs use has on young people across the country,” said Ian Revell, CEO of YMCA Milton Keynes.
“Nationally, YMCA welcomes Government action on legal highs. However, this research has uncovered strong evidence to suggest the new Psychoactive Substances Act will not achieve what is necessary to address the impact these substances are having on many young people’s lives.
“The ban is likely to have some success in reducing the numbers of young people taking these substances, however, we believe it will do little to address the hidden, darker side to legal highs,” he added.
“What YMCA has discovered is that many young people, including those who are highly entrenched in their addiction to substances such as Spice, are likely to be unperturbed by this change in the law.
“Unless the Act is backed up with changes to the education and support currently available, YMCA’s national evidence suggests that these young people and more will continue to experience harm at the hands of legal highs for years to come.”