A Derry mother has said legal highs almost cost her teenage son his life.
The woman, who did not wish to be named, told the ‘Journal’ how her son tried to take his own life as a result of a dependence on legal highs and called on politicians to tackle the problem by introducing rigid legislation.
Legal highs are often chemical substances similar to illegal drugs such as cocaine and cannabis, which can be purchased legally over the counter or online.
“I had no idea my son was taking these substances but when he attempted to kill himself it all came out.”
The woman’s son talked to her about his problem and asked for help. The young man has since made a full recovery and is no longer dependent on the substances.
“I count my son as one of the lucky ones because we were able to get him the help he needed but because of the way in which the law is here it means that young people, like my son, can get their hands on these substances wherever and when ever they want.
“Legal highs are impacting upon families all over Derry and until such times our politicians get their fingers out and start tackling the problem with clear legislation then it will continue to get worse,” said the woman.
Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle and Chair of the Assembly’s Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin, told the ‘Journal’ that she contacted the Health Minister, Simon Hamilton to ask him how many people had been affected by legal highs in the Western Trust area recently.
“I asked Health Minister Simon Hamilton for a breakdown of the number of under 18’s presenting for treatment after taking psychoactive substances or so-called legal highs.
“While it is clear these substance are having a devastating impact on communities across the North, I was shocked that 27 young people were treated for the effects of these drugs in the Western Trust area between 2011 and 2014.”
Ms. McLaughlin echoed the calls of the Derry mother for rigid legislation and said that if the problem of legal highs was not addressed immediately it could result in serious harm.
“The fact that teenagers are using these potentially deadly substances will be very worrying for parents and guardians.
“Robust legislation is needed as a matter of urgency to remove these psychoactive substances for sale, both in shops and online, so that more young people do not end up in hospital or worse.”