About 10 years ago, the drugs market in UK began to change. Young people started talking about ‘legal highs’ and new substances started appearing in festivals and universities – pills, powders, smoking mixes.
It was easy to be confused about the risk of these substances. And many young people who experimented were harmed. One was Hester Stewart, a highly talented student at Sussex University. In 2009 she was persuaded to try GBL, which was legal at the time, and never woke up from her sleep.
Her mother Maryon Stewart decided to fight back against this sudden new risk to young people’s health and well-being. With great determination, she set up Angelus and attracted an array of experts from a wide range of fields. Their goal was to help raise awareness of these new psychoactive substances (NPS) and prevent tragedies befalling other families.
The easy access of these substances through high street sales perpetuated the risks as dozens of new products became available. After many years of effort, Angelus achieved its objective of seeing the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 passing into law. It had an immediate and substantial impact. The largest national survey on prevalence in England and Wales showed that in its first year there was a 55% reduction in NPS use among young people and 65% fall among young men.
There are still serious problems among the vulnerable populations but the Act as a blunt instrument has reduced harms among young people and its passing has succeeded in raising awareness. Soon after the legislation passed into law Angelus merged with the leading drugs and alcohol prevention charity Mentor UK.
Throughout the history of Angelus, its website has been a critical resource for information, films, news and reports about NPS. However, Angelus and Mentor’s merger was exactly a year ago, so it is timely that the decision has been made to close the site. It has served its purpose and now is the time to move on. Many of its films will still be available on YouTube and the young people’s website, Why Not Find Out. Angelus’s prevention and education initiatives has been embedded in Mentor’s work; it is a silver thread that runs through our projects and programmes such as Adepis, Project Aware and outreach work in Universities.
Angelus’ legacy is the unknown numbers of young people who decided not to take a risky with a legal substance and saved themselves and their family from harm.
Thank you for your support of Angelus and our ongoing drug awareness and prevention work at Mentor.