Anyone reading our report of the Gosport Community Safety Day will surely be struck by the straight-forward – and accurate – way in which 14-year-old Sam Dryden describes the problem surrounding so-called legal highs.
Sam says: ‘They shouldn’t be legal just because the chemicals have been changed slightly. They are just as dangerous as drugs.’
That’s absolutely bang on, and precisely why The News wholeheartedly backs any campaign to remove legal highs from our society.
We say ‘remove’ because we acknowledge that legislating against them is difficult. Despite their name, it would be more accurate to refer to these substances as ‘not-illegal highs’ as the word legal confers some kind of respectability.
The truth is that they exist in a grey area in which chemical tweaks and small print are used to keep them from being banned – being called ‘legal’ has nothing to do with their safety.
Because of this grey area, it may well be that the most effective counter is that oft-used horrible jargon, raising awareness.
But in this case awareness raising is easy – it’s enough to point out that people taking legal highs have died. It’s happened in Gosport. It’s true. We’ve reported the inquests. It’s not pleasant.
And we know that the youth charity Motiv8 has a lot of experience at street level, so when one of its workers says that legal highs are ‘such a common thing in Gosport... a massive problem’ then we should take them seriously.
Anyone over 35 will probably remember the Grange Hill storyline about Zammo’s descent into heroin use, which sparked the Just Say No campaign. It may be a blunt instrument, but that’s exactly the kind of message we need to keep pushing today.
So remember the plain speaking of a 14-year-old who clearly has their head screwed on.
Just because you can buy these substances doesn’t mean you should.
They may not kill you, but they might.
And that ought to be enough to make you think twice.