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13 May 2015
New interactive film for secondary schools on 'legal highs' risk

New interactive film for secondary schools on 'legal highs' risk

Schools across Scotland are to be given a new interactive online film to warn teenagers of the dangers of 'legal highs'.

The film, which is to be made available to teachers in secondary schools, seeks to deter young people from taking new psychoactive substances (NPS). 

The launch comes just two weeks on from six teenagers being hospitalised in the west of Scotland after taking a substance believed to be a synthetic cannabinoid.

The online film allows young people to choose from a range of different scenarios, all based around the issue of NPS and alcohol, each with different conclusions.

Teachers will also be given a pack for personal and social development classes to broaden their knowledge on the issue.

Holyrood understands Police Scotland and Scottish Government intend to explore the scope for a similar interactive resource suitable for primary schools pupils, with the topics based on local discussions.  

Police Scotland, which has developed the film in conjunction with Young Scot and the Scottish Government as part of the Choices for Life initiative, has seized in excess of 3,200 tablets, 6,400 packets and 5,400grams of NPS since last August.

Detective Inspector Michael Miller, national drugs co-ordinator for the single force, said the film intends to “separate the fact from the fiction” by combatting a “myth” that such substances are safe to take because of their legal status.

“It’s become clear that officers are spending an increasing amount of time dealing with the diverse issues brought on by new psychoactive substances as the trend to take them escalates,” he said.

“It horrifies me that young people willingly take a substance without knowing what it contains or the effects it will have. We’re aware that young people as young as 12, 13 and 14 are taking these substances, with some taking unwell and being hospitalised. 

“Officers are coming across incidents of anti-social behaviour, street robberies and intravenous drug use on the back of taking NPS, in addition to the significant health risks they pose and their potential to destroy families and friendships.”

Five substances, including ethylphenidate, were made subject to Temporary Class Drug Orders last month, banning their sale and distribution for up to 12 months.

The move followed the outbreak of two infections amongst 125 reported users of ethylphenidate - a legal high sold as Burst, Blue or Blue Stuff - in NHS Lothian.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Dr Richard Stevenson, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, warned that legal highs are an “ongoing problem” with patients presenting at A&E.  

“People are ‘self-medicating’ using various drugs to counter the effects of others leading to poisonings,” he said. “When a drug is banned or made illegal, users are searching for legal alternatives, but due to differing doses and effects people are miscalculating the amount required for the same effect.

“In addition to the physical health risks associated with taking these chemicals we are also now starting to see patients with increased mental illness caused by ‘legal highs’.”

Paul Wheelhouse, Minster for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, said the Scottish Government has already put £4million of funding into Choices for Life and is taking forward a number of recommendations from an expert group that reported earlier this year. 

“The dangers of New Psychoactive Substances presents a ticking timebomb for our health, justice and third sector organisations right across Scotland which is why this government is doing all it can to tackle them,” he added.

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