The Angelus Foundation, a British charity dedicated to raising awareness of the affects of ‘legal highs’ and party drugs, have recently released their findings from a snapshot survey on legal substance use that they conducted at an unspecified university in southern England.
The results of the survey revealed that of the 132 first year student respondents 19 per cent admitted to having taken a legal high, legally and medically known as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS).
Further results indicate that 36 per cent of those surveyed had been offered NPS, while 61 per cent claimed to have a friend who has tried them.
The Student asked students at The University of Edinburgh about their first year experiences with legal highs, with many of the students stating they had either tried a NPS themselves or had been offered some.
All the students questioned said that they knew someone who had tried a NPS.
There has been growing concern over NPS use among young people over the past decade along with a degree of moral panic reflected in media coverage of NPS related deaths.
Maryon Stewart, founder of The Angelus Foundation, stressed to The Telegraph: “There is no group more vulnerable to exposure to legal highs than students […] Their prevalence appears to be rife.”
However, students at The University of Edinburgh have not fully echoed Stewart’s views, though many who spoke to The Student were willing to concede that “students and younger people are generally pretty impressionable and anxious to try new things”.
The UN Office of Drugs and Crime have estimated that more than 670,000 people aged between 15 and 24 have tried NPS in the UK alone. This estimate makes Britain the highest consumer of NPS in Europe.
Most students questioned voiced concerns over how NPS related deaths have been portrayed in the media.
“The focus seems to be mainly on white youth who take drugs at parties or whatever but there should be a wider and more accurate representation of who is using and how it affects everyone” said an anonymous student from the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures.
All students admitted to having very little to no knowledge of the manufacturing process, ingredients, health risks and legality of legal highs, though one student from the School of Law noted: “I could probably Google all the information about these substances, but I just can’t be bothered.”
Abuse of NPS has been linked to heart attacks, strokes, organ damage through overheating, psychosis, and in some extreme cases, death.
Stewart founded The Angelus Foundation in 2009 after her 21-year-old daughter Hester, then a medical student, died after consuming GBL, an NPS legal at the time. The charity is now dedicated to educating young people and their parents about the risks of legal highs.