1. ITV Report

Amy's father backs drugs campaign

Mitch Winehouse, father of the late singer Amy Winehouse, speaks at the launch of the first national campaign to tackle 'legal highs'. Photo: PA

Amy Winehouse's father has given his backing to a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the potentially lethal effects of club drugs and legal highs.

The Angelus Foundation has launched its Find Out campaign to tackle the issue of legal highs.

The late singer's father said the Amy Winehouse Foundation was backing the campaign and believed that drug education in schools should be a priority for the Government.

He helped launch the foundation's campaign of films, posters, a website and a hard-hitting advertising campaign aimed at children and parents warning of the dangers of the drugs.

A woman passes graffiti referring to drug use in north London. Credit: REUTERS/Toby Melville

Mitch Winehouse set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation in his daughter's memory - and one of its priorities is to educate other young people about the dangers of drug abuse. He spoke to London Tonight's Lucrezia Millarini. Watch her report on legal highs:

We are not talking about entrenched drug addicts, people who have been on heroin or crack cocaine or even marijuana for 20 or 30 years.

This stuff can get you with one exposure - one exposure can kill you and we have to bring this to the attention of parents and kids in schools.

This is about education, this is about giving young people the information to be able to make informed choices.

A whole generation of young people is at risk from legal highs simply because they don't know what serious harm they can come to by taking them.

We're delighted to be working collaboratively with the Angelus Foundation to help set the record straight about the dangers of legal highs and club drugs, and to prevent any more senseless deaths.

– Mitch Winehouse told a news conference in central London

Maryon Stewart, who founded the Angelus Foundation after her award-winning medical student daughter Hester died at the age of 21 in 2009 after consuming the then legal GBL, said its own research showed large numbers of children admitted to having been offered legal highs.

Legal highs:

  • Nitrous oxide (also known as Helium, N20, Laughing gas)
  • Benzo Fury most often contains the chemical 6-(2-aminopropyl) benzofuran. It is also called 6-APB and Bliss
  • MDAI or Sparkle (5,6-Methylenedioxy-2-aminoindane)
  • Annihilation (also known as Synthetic Cannabis)
  • methoxetamine - known as MXE or mexxy
  • GBL (also known as GHB)
  • 5-IT or He-Man
  • 5-MeO-DALT (tryptamine)
  • Black Mamba is a herbal smoking mixture that contains a synthetic form of cannabis
  • Ethylphenidate (also known as legal crack)
  • Kronic or K2 is a brand of herbal smoking mixture which contains a synthetic form of cannabis
  • Methiopropamine (MPA)
  • Bonsai or Benzos or Russian valium (Phenazepam is an extremely strong sedative)
  • Poppers also known as Rush, Liquid gold, TNT, Ram, Buzz, Tibal juice (volatile liquid amyl nitrite)
  • Salvia Divinorum also known as Salvia or Sage (extremely powerful hallucinogenic drug)

There has been an unprecedented influx of new legal highs in the country.

Currently there is a huge knowledge gap in their effects and the dangers they present. Legal does not mean safe.

Last year there were 49 new substances - this year alone in the first five months of the year there were 28 new substances. Often they are a combination of toxic chemicals and class B drugs.

We don't really know what is in many of them and the contents vary from region to region and from month to month.

So we are really on the back foot. Our kids are literally out there playing Russian roulette with their lives, not knowing.

Angelus is devoted to raising awareness of the dangers of legal highs and club drugs and providing information and impartial advice to both young people and parents alike.

Through the Find Out campaign, we can give young people the facts they need to make an informed, and wiser, decision and also give parents the tools to start these conversations with their children.

– Angelus Foundation founder Maryon Stewart
Louise Cattell. Credit: Angelus Foundation.

The launch was also attended by actor and comedian Jeff Leach, who spoke about his 21-year-old friend Louise Cattell from Primrose Hill, who drowned in the bath last year after taking ketamine, an anaesthetic used by vets before surgery on animals.

She was 21 years old and incredibly talented, one of the most positive and upbeat people I think I have ever known and it seems ludicrous that she has been taken from us by, I think, a lack of education and a series of poor choices.

I am behind it (the campaign) because I lost one of the most beautiful people I have ever had the fortune of meeting in my life to ketamine, because she wasn't educated, that is the bottom line.

– Vicky Unwin, an ambassador for the Angelus Foundation

Her mother Vicky Unwin, an ambassador for the Angelus Foundation, warned of the "random" effects of legal highs and club drugs on young people.

She said legal highs and club drugs were cheaper than alcohol and were sought out by hard-up students and young people.

The campaign launch comes after the Government was urged by drugs experts last week to ban a potental legal high called "annihilation".

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said it would recommend Home Secretary Theresa May put the product - marketed as "herbal incense" - on the list of controlled substances.

The ACMD also warned that there was an increasing need to educate the public over "potentially lethal" inhalation of gases such as helium and nitrous oxide.

Helium inhalation caused two deaths in 2007 but over the last year has been responsible for 42 deaths.

New research which The Angelus Foundation commissioned to the independent online research company Research Now, found that almost half (45%) of 16- 24 year olds admit they have been offered legal highs.

Despite the fact that the majority (67%) do not feel well informed about the risks, almost a third (29%) are likely to try them.

In fact, a quarter (26%) wrongly believe that legal highs are safer than illegal drugs. Even more worryingly, according to a YouGov survey, the vast majority of parents (86%) also lack the vital knowledge needed to warn their children about the dangers of legal highs.

In 2011 a new legal high became available to young people across the UK almost every week for as little as £1. (Forty-nine new legal highs were identified by European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction).

The dangers of these new drugs are almost completely unknown, although many have the potential to be lethal.

With an additional 28 new legal highs becoming available in the UK in the first five months of 2012, this figure is set to rise throughout the rest of the year.

An increasing number of deaths are being linked to the use of legal highs. Joseph Benett, 17, from Hampstead, north London, died from inhaling nitrous oxide.

The public schoolboy died after inhaling the substance known as laughing gas with his friends, his devastated sister has revealed.

The promising art student suffered a cardiac arrest after taking the popular party drug on.

The teenager fell into a coma but died with his family at his bedside.

I think having experienced how much this hurts, people should think about whether they are putting themselves in danger.

You do need to think about what you are doing, not just for yourself but for the sake of the people who love you.

– Joseph's sister Camille, told the Ham&High newspaper

The Angelus Foundation, a charity which aims to raise awareness of the risks of using 'legal highs' and club drugs, has launched the Find Out campaign.

Find Out is the first national campaign to inform and educate young people and parents about the dangers of taking legal highs and other harmful social substances.

Substances sold as legal highs are invariably an unknown quantity. They may be a dangerous combination of toxic chemicals which young people take, believing they are safe. There is a wide range of side effects which include psychosis, depression, panic attacks, heart problems, seizures, coma, loss of use of the bladder and even death.

In the last few years, several legal highs such as GBL, Mephedrone and club drugs like Ketamine have been classified as illegal but many uncontrolled and unregulated legal highs such as Benzo Fury and MDAI are still widely available to buy over the internet.

These legal highs are actively marketed at young people, with no warnings about the potential health hazards.

The Find Out campaign consists of an impactful advertising campaign designed by advertising agency, Leagas Delaney and a supporting website - - which provides impartial information and advice for young people to help them make informed decisions about legal highs.

The website will also host a series of short films showing real-life case studies to support each poster.

Parents can get information on legal highs on the Angelus Foundation website.

The advertising campaign will include national posters, print and online advertising as well as digital posters at key mainline train stations.