A mother who says her family was ‘ripped apart’ after her teenage son became addicted to legal highs has called for a blanket ban on the dangerous substances.
Yvonne Chafey, from Ayrshire, said her son was a “happy, normal teenager” before he started taking new psychoactive substances (NPS) at the age of 15.
“He sold all his possessions to feed his habit, and became violent”, she recalled.
“He attacked me on numerous occasions, and threatened his brother and sister. I had to tell him to leave the family home.
“One time he burst his head open by repeatedly smashing it against a brick wall while coming down from the drugs”, Chafey added.
Chafey’s son ended up being arrested and had to appear in court.
He has not taken legal highs for eight weeks now, but Chafey said “it has been a huge struggle, and has ripped my family apart”.
She called for tough action to be taken on NPS: “Any shop which sells legal highs should be shut down. I want to see a blanket ban on them.”
Detective Chief Inspector Garry Mitchell is leading ‘Operation Redwall’, Police Scotland’s national response to legal highs.
He said they have seen children as young as eleven taking the substances.
“The packaging is glossy, with bright colours, and are aimed at a younger market.
“Usage fluctuates, but we can categorically say that the prevalence of the use of NPS is increasing”, he added.
According to the latest statistics, the number of deaths involving legal highs in Scotland has soared in recent years.
NPS either contributed to, or were present in, 114 deaths in the past year, compared to just four registered in 2009.
The number of legal high-related deaths has increased, from 47 in 2012 rising to 113 in 2013.
Detective Chief Inspector Mitchell said: “These substances are destroying communities, destroying families, so we wouldn’t encourage anyone to take these.”
Last month, Edinburgh City Council targeted 13 stores selling legal highs, and shopkeepers handed over substances worth £50,000.
A UK-wide Bill to ban legal highs is currently going through Parliament.