New social campaign to tackle scourge of legal highs

A NEW social media campaign aims to put a downer on legal highs.

The initiative, supported by football clubs, highlights the dangers of the substances which have been responsible for a number of deaths.

South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Dr Alan Billings, launching the Twitter account @ill_legalhighs, says he is worried that young people are unaware of the risks they take when using the substances.

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The campaign is supported by all five South Yorkshire football clubs –  Rotherham United, Barnsley FC, Doncaster Rovers, Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday.

The scheme is also being backed by by Doncaster Rovers Belles and the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team.

The @ill_legalhighs account will retweet images of the football and ice-hockey players displaying key messages to be tweeted out of the clubs’ Twitter accounts highlighting important issues surrounding legal highs.

Legal highs are a compound of substances manufactured to mimic the effects of known illegal drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin which have become popular with young people.

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There is a common belief that they are safe to use but that is not the case.

There is currently a bill going through Parliament to try and ban the sale of legal highs, properly known as New Psychoactive Substances, but manufacturers regularly change the make-up of the products to get round the law.

Dr Billings said; “I have been police and crime commissioner for almost 12 months now. As I have met local community groups, local policing teams, MPs, councillors, medical professionals, teachers and many members of the public across the county, I have been repeatedly told about concerns and anxieties about the growing use of legal highs.

“Young people in particular are taking them with very little idea about what they are or what the possible consequences might be not just for their health and well-being - though that is serious in itself - but also for their future prospects.

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“They may be legal but that is not the same as saying they are safe. The principal issue is that no one who takes them has any idea what might be in them - and their content changes all the time.

“There is very little information available at the moment to advise young people, who may be as young as 13, and their parents about the dangers of legal highs and how they might affect any future plans young people may have.

“We have chosen a social media campaign because this is the medium most likely to reach young people. I would encourage anyone on social media who see these messages to share, retweet and get involved.”

Dr Billings thanked the clubs for their support for the campaign

People can find out more by following @ill_legalhighs on Twitter or on Facebook and use the hashtag #ill_legalhighs.

The campaign will run until Christmas.