‘My son died after getting hooked on legal highs’

editorial image

A distraught mother who tragically lost her son to legal highs in Harrogate has come forward to back the Harrogate Advertiser campaign.

Her son, brought up in Harrogate and Knaresborough, was killed in 2013 after becoming addicted to these lethal substances.

This week, as the campaign across the district gathers pace and secures the backing of the Home Office, she calls for legal highs to be abolished altogether.

“This is more frightening than heroin,” she said. “Anybody can get legal highs on the internet - even 12 year olds. It’s terrifying.”

Her son, a professional man in his early 40s, had worked in management roles and care in Harrogate.

She has asked for him not to be named, to protect the identities of the family and friends he has left behind.

But she has shared his story, in an attempt to demonstrate how devastating these new drugs can be.

“I was aware that he was using cannabis now and again,” said his mother.

“But then he went off for six months with depression. He went back to work, but he just couldn’t cope.

“We fought to get him help, but there wasn’t any around. Then I started to notice mood swings, paranoia, and it got ten times worse.”

Her son, it emerged, had started taking legal highs in early 2013, rapidly becoming addicted.

“One day I found him very paranoid, not knowing where he was,” she said.

“I had to stop him jumping out of a fourth floor window. He was completely unaware of what he was doing.

“Then I found a little brown bag. He was relying on these internet highs.

“They made him feel good, in a different way. It was the only way he could cope with life.

“But he just wanted more and more. The addiction took hold so quickly. I’ve never seen anything like it. He didn’t know who he was.

“I had to call an ambulance three times because of his psychotic behaviour.

“He tried to jump out of the window. He tried to jump off the fire escape.

“He was convinced he was being watched all the time. He would run from window to window to see who was watching.

“That was the effect of these drugs. It was unbelievable.”

With the backing of hugely supportive family and friends, she tried desperately to get him help.

“At times, I hoped they would section him, as at least then I would know he was safe,” said his mother. “But it wasn’t that easy. He was a danger to himself.

“He was quite open about taking them - but he didn’t know what he was using. He died within a year of starting to take these drugs.”

Her son had suffered from an underlying medical condition, and one day his high triggered his illness.

Discovered in a coma by his family, he spent three weeks on life support in intensive care at Harrogate District Hospital, but he couldn’t be saved.

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw the Harrogate Advertiser campaign - this is exactly what is needed,” she said this week.

“We need to make people aware of what is happening. It is going to get out of control.”

She is looking to set up a support group in the Harrogate district, working with drugs charity Horizons.

And she has met with Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones, who took her campaign to the Home Office to help raise awareness.

“There are other mums out there, going throug h this hell alone, and they don’t know where to turn,” she said. “It’s horrendous.

“Even hardened drug users are frightened because they don’t know the consequences of these drugs.

“And when they are banned, those making them just change the structure and they are legal again.

“The Government should just ban the whole lot. That’s the only answer.”