Expert's warning over legal highs


A drugs expert who educates Jewish pupils about harmful substances has warned of the danger posed by the increasing use of legal highs.

Sixty-seven people died in the UK last year after taking legal highs such as helium, laughing gas and spice - the name for addictive synthetic cannabis mixtures.

Steven Mervish, who works for Norwood Drugsline on outreach education, said that before the summer holidays, he "asked 200 year seven students over several schools [around half Jewish] whether they had tried laughing gas. Only six didn't put their hands up.

"Young people are experimenting with things more dangerous than a few decades ago. And when they see the word 'legal', they don't turn the pack over and see the label marked 'not meant for human consumption'.

"And because it's legal, these kids can take drugs into school. Some schools know, other schools tend to not admit they have a problem. Jewish schools are not different from other schools. It's across the board."

Schools are beginning to acknowledge the problem

Me Mervish urged parents to educate themselves about the risks, saying that he had attended functions where young people were not the only ones inhaling helium balloons. "You see parents joining in - they think it's funny. Helium is a mind-altering substance. It's not a clever thing to do.

"We need to make the community more aware of what's going on, and that's what we're doing."

Jewish schools were now beginning "to acknowledge the problem. They are becoming wise to what's going on."

At King Solomon High School in Redbridge, a spokesperson pointed out that "we run a variety of interventions to ensure students are educated about drugs. Our drug awareness programme explores the dangers of drug use.

"It focuses on the long-term health implications associated with smoking tobacco or taking drugs. Students are told what they should do if they are worried about someone they know using drugs. In addition, students have sessions run by our community police officer on the consequences of drugs."

Hasmonean High uses "a variety of agencies, including Norwood, to run assemblies for students to educate them about the dangers of drugs and alcohol".

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