A FORMER drug user has been giving advice to young people about avoiding gang culture.
The Respect programme, run by Pompey in the Community, invited Paul Hannaford down to hold a talk at Eastney Community Centre yesterday.
Paul, 43, travels the country as part of the Premier Leagues Kickz Outstanding Project talking to students about his experiences after taking drugs, and the dangers of getting involved in gangs.
Paul spent time in prison after getting in trouble when he became addicted to drugs.
He was talking to youngsters from the Respect programme, who are aged between 12 and 17.
He said: ‘I was a bright intelligent young kid and I ended up in some really dark places with addiction and prison – all of it was drug-related.
‘So if I can come here today and speak to 25 kids in one session and stop one of them living like I did then it’s worth getting me in.
‘I don’t expect them to be skipping down the street saying they will never touch drugs again.
‘But the penny may drop for one of them, and that one is someone’s son.
‘I’ve seen a lot of misery and pain with drugs.’
Paul held a workshop with the youngsters, telling them about his experiences with drugs and what happened to him.
They also had a chance to ask him questions.
Charlie Simmonds, 15, from Milton, said: ‘It was good. It’s made me think about life a bit more and where I’m going.’
Sam Palmer, 16, from Somerstown, said: ‘It’s going to make me think more about drugs. I want to be a DJ so I want to go to college.’
Julian Wadsworth, Respect manager for Pompey in the Community, said: ‘We felt that there was a need to have a workshop that is hard-hitting and raises awareness through someone that has been through that experience.
‘He’s speaking the language of the young people that are involved in groups and gangs that are involved in substance misuse and thinking about drug dealing.
‘We are trying to support young people and help them choose healthy lifestyles.
‘I think young people are listening to what he’s saying.’