Helping Experienced Drug Users


These messages are for use by service staff who are working with young people who have disclosed their use of drugs and remain intent to continue.  The messages above remain relevant and efforts to support reduction and cessation of their use should continue alongside these harm reduction messages.

Start low and go slow

  • Take a small amount to start with and let it reach its peak effect to test its strength before taking more.
  • Remember that different drugs act at different speeds, and a slow response does not necessarily mean that the drug is weak.
  • Some so called “legal highs” can be extremely strong, but take longer to take effect than other drugs.
  • Because the mix of ingredients can vary, even between different batches of the same drug, the strength can vary too, making it easier to overdose.

Use in a safe environment with trusted company

  • Seek help if you need to.
  • Tell someone you are with what you have taken and try and keep the packet, so that if something goes wrong, medics know what you have taken.
  • If going to sleep, sleep on your side.
  • So called ‘party drugs’ and ‘club drugs’ are unfamiliar and unused terms, and may portray a lack of understanding and credibility.

Recent research

Recent work which tested messages related to so called “legal highs” with young people in the UK found the following:

What Works

  • Challenging false assumptions about so called “legal highs” – eg: legality, safety and control.
  • Emphasising the idea that taking them involves a huge leap of faith.
  • Realistic, credible information.
  • Specific, identifiable negatives can resonate – eg: comedowns.
  • Short-term, immediate risks are more likely to engage interest.
  • Vanity is a potential lever for some.
  • Impact on future prospects resonates amongst those making decisions about their future ( 15-18 years) eg-  restrictions on career choice and travel.


  • Young people are sensitive on being patronised on this issue.
  • Melodramatic or unrealistic portrayal of the risks are easily ignored.
  • Long-term health risks are intangible and distant.
  • Fundamental attribution error is common: bad things happen to ‘other people’, and likely to be the result of their own decisions.


Talking to
young people
about NPS

drug users


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Take the

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