Amy Winehouse's father Mitch backs drugs campaign

 

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.

Mitch Winehouse helped launch the Angelus Foundation campaign of films, posters, a website and a hard-hitting advertising campaign aimed at children and parents warning of the dangers of the drugs.

"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," Mr Winehouse told a news conference in central London.

"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," he added.

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.

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.

"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," she said.

"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."

The launch was also attended by actor and comedian Jeff Leach, who spoke about his 21-year-old friend Louise Cattell, 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," he said.

"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."

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.

Police in Scotland have issued a warning over annihilation use, saying it has left at least nine people in hospital over the last three months.

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.

PA

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