Rick Bradley of drug and alcohol charity KCA on how buying legal highs is a lottery and not as safe as a tin of beans
A tin of beans undergoes more tests than drugs that could land users in intensive care.
That is from a key charity worker who believes education on legal highs could help crack down on a menace that has claimed lives in Kent.
Rick Bradley is service manager for south and east Kent at KCA Young Persons’ Services.
Legal highs undergo fewer tests than baked beans
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The drug and alcohol charity KCA offers training and support through their Young Persons’ Services to those aged between 10 and 17.
School visits and one-to-one sessions are just some of the ways the organisation attempts to keep young people safe around substance misuse.
Rick said: “What our work will involve is trying to educate young people so they can make informed choices.
"Our ethos very much is if we can work towards people not using substances, that’s our main goal but if we went in there and said ‘kids, don’t use drugs’ they would tell us to probably mind our own business.
Rick Bradley of charity KCA
"What we will try and do is give them factual information, acknowledge that there might be some positives around why people would use substances but absolutely focusing on the potential risks and consequences both in the short-term and in the long-term.”
The Young Persons’ Services has an office in Canterbury which covers south and east Kent; an office in Maidstone which serves north and west Kent and a Medway-based office.
Rick feels it is important to offer help so young people can make their own decisions rather than telling them what they should and shouldn’t do with their lives.
A user smokes a legal high. Posed by a model
He said: “We have the ethos of not being judgmental. It’s about empowering people to make informed choices to keep themselves and their friends safe.
"All we will try and do is deal with the local environment in terms of what substances are prevalent, making sure we can get as much information to the young people who are using them and trying to minimise the risks for those who are contemplating taking them.”
One of KCA’s main aims is to ensure the risks and consequences of legal highs are known as they are part of an industry which isn’t regulated, unlike other items we use.
He said: “You go to the supermarket and get a tin of beans and you know it’s been properly tested, you know you’re not going to be caught out by what you’re purchasing.
The campaign so far
"There are several incidents where there’s been seizures or testing on things that have been sold either on legal high websites or in head shops... and actually what they say it is, it isn’t.
"There might be completely different compounds. They are often substances that have been previously banned which are still contained in these new substances marketed as legal.”
Sessions are targeted to individuals - depending on their age and whether they're already using substances.
Legal highs are readily sold in stores across Kent. Picture: Trading Standards
So, says Rick, if youngsters want to use legal highs, the charity's main aim is to keep them and their friends as safe as possible, while giving them the message that not using substances is the safest option.
The organisation is urging young people in Kent who have questions on legal highs, or who need support with any issues, to contact them.
Youngsters can visit their website, which offers help and shares stories from young people who have had experiences with a range of substances, including legal highs.
They can also phone KCA on 01227 456 744 in east and mid-Kent, 01634 338 640 in west Kent or 01634 338 640 in Medway.
Video: Rick Bradley of KCA tells how education is key to tackling legal highs
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