ESSEX: Dad warns against dangers of using Mephedrone
A FATHER who discovered that his 19-year-old son was addicted to the legal high mephedrone has warned that the drug is rife among young people in Saffron Walden. Distraught Stephen Welch, from Great Sampford, found out last weekend that his son, who did n
A FATHER who discovered that his 19-year-old son was addicted to the legal high mephedrone has warned that the drug is rife among young people in Saffron Walden.
Distraught Stephen Welch, from Great Sampford, found out last weekend that his son, who did not want to be named in the local paper, was hooked on the drug which is known by a variety of names including meow meow and M-Cat.
The 58-year-old accountant said: "A lot of young people are using this drug and many parents are not even aware that it exists.
"In my son's friendship group, most of them are taking it - and that's about 20 people who live in this area. It's a much bigger problem in Saffron Walden than people realise.
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"These are decent kids from good families who wouldn't usually dream of taking drugs, but they do it because it's legal and they think it's safe. The truth is it's ruining lives."
Mr Welch said that his son, who is the second youngest of four children, started taking the drug recreationally in November, but it soon spiralled out of control until he was taking it at least every other day and often having multiple hits.
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"One weekend he took the drug particularly heavily and he became physically very ill," said Mr Welch. "It was very scary and we came close to taking him to hospital. He had heart pains and palpitations and went through periods of extreme anger and depression.
"For a while we had noticed that he had been acting a bit differently - he had lost weight and was having mood swings, but it was only after that weekend that he told us what was happening.
"The drug is readily available in Saffron Walden and very cheap - only about 50p a line. And in Cambridge there is an 0800 number that you can ring and have it delivered to your door in about 20 minutes. It comes in packets which say 'plant food, not for human consumption'.
"He started by only taking it occasionally and then it became a more regular habit and he would do it socially at friends' houses."
The teenager, who had completed his GCSEs at Friends' School in Saffron Walden and then went on to study at an agricultural college near Norwich, has had to give up his course and is not working.
"He realises he has had a very close shave," said Mr Welch. "He doesn't want to become another statistic and he knows it might mean he has to break with some of his friends."
Mr Welch said the help available to his son was seriously lacking and the best advice he was given from health care professionals was to take his son to accident and emergency. He is now pushing for better advice for parents about legal drugs, such as mephedrone, to be made available and calling on the government to have them banned.