Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Ecstasy: Knowing the dangers

Twenty years ago the image of Leah Betts lying in her hospital bed came to symbolise the dangers of ecstasy.

Leah Betts died after taking ecstasy

Leah died after taking the drug while celebrating her 18th birthday.

In many ways the image worked as ecstasy deaths fell, as did the popularity of the drug.

But two decades on there's a new generation unaware of Leah's name or this image and many are naive to the dangers of ecstasy.

At Blackmore Park Infant School drug awareness starts early. The children in this class are six-years-old and already getting messages about harm reduction.

Pupils at Blackmore Park Infant School are given drug awareness lessons Credit: ITV Granada Reports

While they're not spoken to specifically about Class A drugs, they're given important messages about medicines and the dangers of taking pills which, to young eyes, can look like sweets.

Teacher Clare Pedersen said:

I think the earlier you can get that message across to them and their train of thought so they don't think its a good thing to take a drug if you don't know what it is, that's the key message we're giving them, and it's important to get that message across early on.

In terms of things like behaviour you're teaching them things like self-discipline. I always say to them even if you think a grown up can't see you, you can see yourself. Are you making a good choice?

– Clare Pedersen

That's a philosophy shared by drugs awareness charity Mentor UK

They've been piloting a programme here in the North West called the Good Behaviour Game which aims to fill the gap where some traditional drug education lessons are failing.

Particularly as drug education is not compulsory in schools.

Michael O'Toole from Mentor UK said:

What we believe works is following a life course approach and what underpins that is a way in which we can develop people's life skills and their resilience to drugs and alcohol problems...what doesn't work is trying to scare people and the other thing that doesn't work is just giving them information and expecting them to make an informed decision.

– Michael O'Toole, Mentor UK
Hilary Bass lost her son Gary four years ago Credit: ITV Granada Reports

But its not just schools who have the potential to inform. Hilary Bass lost her son Gary to ecstasy four years ago, and believe there is a need for a new awareness campaign.

Hilary said:

I've tried to do something about it but I'm just on my own I can't do nothing about it, its got to be the government and the media have got to pay more attention.

We haven't really had much investment in harm reduction campaigns in many years. Now in the age of social media we really do have the platforms to engage with users.

– Hilary Bass

Politically and morally there are questions over that

But like with Leah Betts, those in favour say if further deaths are to be reduced, we need to have that conversation.

More on this story