'Drugs unavoidable for young people' mums warn, after sons died taking ecstasy

Two mothers whose sons both died after taking ecstasy say drugs are unavoidable for young people as they call for more to be done to tackle the number of social media pages promoting drugs to young people.

In an exclusive interview, ITV Meridian has brought together Nicci Parish and Fiona Spargo-Mabbs.

Nicci's son Billy from Worthing died aged 24. She later set up the Billy and Beyond Foundation, which aims to increase drug safety and awareness for young people.

Fiona Spargo-Mabbs' son Daniel died when he was just 16 - also having taken ecstasy. She now runs the Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation which offers workshops to schoolchildren to help educate.

Nicky said: "For me drug education in schools just wasn't enough, so the whole thing of Billy and Beyond started, and it's about young people's mental health. and drug awareness.

Schools are quite stretched with their finances, so for us to be able to fund it for local schools, then they can just book in the workshops.

Nicky used her own social media account to investigate how difficult it would be to buy drugs.

Billy Mullin died aged 24, after taking ecstasy

"Quite a few sites came up, and that really shocked me, because it was so easy to find something. What worries me, is that these sites aren't questioning how old the children are, what's actually in the drugs they are selling, or any safety notices.

"Children as young as 12 who may look at these things would have no idea what they are actually taking.

"For those running the sites - it's just a way of making money.

Nicci's son Billy started using drugs at the age of 15. But Nicky says, as a parent she didn't have the knowledge to educate him.

"To me it was a subject I didn't want to talk about, because I just didn't want him to do it. But since Billy died, I've realised it's a subject that as a parent, you should be talking about. You need to be able to have an honest conversation.

  • Nicci Parish says she can understand how the sites could be appealing to young people

Fiona Spargo-Mabbs' son Daniel died in January 2014 - after taking MDMA. Dan, who was just 16, had convinced his parents to let him go to a party with his friends - but instead he went to an illegal rave.

Soon after taking the drug, his body temperature soared to above 42 degrees C and he was rushed to hospital where he was put into intensive care. He died three days later.

"Dan was lovely - bright and big hearted. He loved being friends with everyone and he was good at making friends, his mother Fiona said.

"He was just one of those people that others wanted to be around.

"He made life more fun and more interesting.

16-year-old Daniel Spargo-Mabbs died in 2014 after taking ectsasy

"The role that social media plays in young people's access to drugs, use of drugs and experience of drugs and exposure is just huge now.

"That has grown really rapidly in the last three to four years.

"It's an incredibly hard space to manage and police, because it is just so vast. The ways people can use it are so fluid, and the opportunities to access people differently are evolving all the time.

"There is progress being made and that has been made, but there is such a long way to go.

"I don't think it's an issue that is going anywhere - as it's an ideal space for dealers to reach young people.

"Young people can be offered things, without even looking for anything which is incredibly concerning. That exposure risks normalising it. The ease of access, the more likely people are to do it.

"In the last survey we carried out in 2020, we found one in three 15-year-olds had seen drugs for sale on social media and one in three 15-year-olds who bought drugs had done so through social media.

"It's something seems to be escalating," Fiona added.

  • Fiona Spargo-Mabbs says she believes drugs are unavoidable for young people

Fiona is working alongside Meta, Snapchat, TikTok and the Government to educate youngsters and ensure that sites that are selling drugs through social media are shut down.

"Education is absolutely key, and whatever happens, young people and their parents need to understand the risks.

"Even teachers need to be educated to know how to best support those young people to manage their choices safely.

An updated version of the government's online safety bill - which aims to make Britain “the safest place in the world” to use the internet is to be scrutinised by MPs on Tuesday 7 June.

If you are in need of support you can contact the following organisations for help:

DrugFAM  0300 888 3853Action on Addiction 020 3981 5525

Turning Point