Legal highs lessons for children aged 8?

Speakers at the PIPS Larne balloon release to mark World Suicide Prevention Day at the Town Hall Councillor, Maureen Morrow (left) Family Bereavement Support Worker, Gillian Leech Armstrong and founder of PIPS Larne, Carlee Letson. INLT 37-005-PSB
Speakers at the PIPS Larne balloon release to mark World Suicide Prevention Day at the Town Hall Councillor, Maureen Morrow (left) Family Bereavement Support Worker, Gillian Leech Armstrong and founder of PIPS Larne, Carlee Letson. INLT 37-005-PSB

A local charity said this week it believes that children as young as eight should be educated on suicide awareness and the dangers of legal highs.

Carlee Letson, chair of suicide prevention charity PIPS Larne, spoke out ahead of the introduction of new legal high legislation which could see offenders jailed for up to seven years.

The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent two weeks ago and will be put in place from the spring.

It prohibits the production, supply and importation of the drugs.

Carlee (pictured) told the Times she hoped that the punishment would act as an effective deterrent against the drugs, known as psychoactive substances.

“I had been hoping that this law would go through, as a lot of lives will be saved,” Carlee stated.

“We are still getting five or six calls a day through to our helpline.

“I have been taking classes for students at schools around the Province to raise awareness of drugs and alcohol.

“Alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs because it can leave you very vulnerable.

“I have been taking classes for young people from first year to third year (Years 8-10), but I would also like to go into primary schools to spread the message to P5s, P6s and P7s.”

When asked if she thought that P5 pupils were ready to receive such talks, Carlee replied: “Eight-year-olds today are more aware than people of our generation were at that age.

“We would adapt the programme for the younger age group and it would help them to understand about drugs before they are put in that situation.

“The talks are informal and I would invite any primary schools who are interested to contact me.”

East Antrim UUP MLA Roy Beggs, who has lobbied for enhanced legislation on psychoactive substances, said he was “pleased” with the new law, which he said would “bring to an end a cat-and-mouse game” played by drug manufacturers.

“Until recently, manufacturers of psychoactive substances were able to adjust their chemical make-up to dodge specific drug bans,” he said,

“They were often sold under the guise of plant food and bath salts to circumvent medical and health and safety regulations.

“Within the East Antrim area, these psychoactive drugs have caused death and seriously adversely affected the mental health of many who have become addicted to them. I am aware that in Carrickfergus and Larne, some sold all their possessions and others resorted to crime to fund their addiction.”

Despite the change in the law, Mr Beggs said there will be a “continuing need for resilience training” to prevent young people falling prey to drug addiction.

“I would commend the work of PAL (Preventing Addiction Larne) and urge all statutory agencies to work closely with the local community volunteers assisting in this area,” he concluded.