Cornwall: Coastline, Cream Teas and Cannabis

The substance abuse problem amongst youngsters in Cornwall is no secret. With alcohol, cannabis and MDMA becoming more and more readily available in ‘drug hotspots’ such as Camborne, Penzance and Falmouth, it’s no surprise that drug crime has increased over the last year. With this, mental health issues have put huge strain on the county’s health services.

The county is consistently above the national average for mental health problems associated with drug abuse.

The already mounting stress of future prospects, peer pressure and unstable family life is driving young people to substance abuse. YZUP, stemmed from the drug addiction support organisation Addaction, named reasons for this high presence of drug abuse in the county as being to relieve the burden of abuse, widespread parental neglect and depression. Problems of drug abuse in Cornwall, therefore, are clearly down to the quality of life many face here.

Often described as a “gateway drug” (it leads to further substance abuse in the future) Cannabis is the young people’s main drug of choice. An NHS National Treatment Agency conducted a survey concluding that cannabis is the regions primary substance; it amounts to 43% of all drugs used by young people, surprisingly higher than alcohol, which stood at 39%. YZUP claimed that most teenagers using cannabis admit to smoking almost every day. An example of the effects it can have on someone is the devastating case of Sam Sidwell, who committed suicide at age 17, after incessant drug use drove him to paranoia and violent behaviour in 2015.  Sam’s heartbroken mother Kyla Prior said his problems began only a few months before his death, when he was “groomed” by older men who would target teenagers with the aim of getting them hooked so they would deal the psychoactive drug to other teens.

Legal highs, or new psychoactive substances, available in several shops in Truro, are becoming increasingly popular in Cornwall. They are legal, however: the Medicines Act of 1968 states they are illegal to sell, supply or advertise as for human consumption. They are labelled as ‘not for human consumption’, ‘research chemical’ or ‘plant food’. This doesn’t stop people from using them. Colourful packaging is dangerous diversion from what the drugs really contain, which is often unknown.

Detective Inspector Neil Blackhurst said: “The most important message that we want to send out is that just because something is being sold as legal it does not mean that it is safe to consume.” These drugs are increasingly popular because they are so easy to get hold of, the inviting way in which they are advertised and the false sense of security induced by the word ‘legal’.

The dark side to these substances was seen in the recently reported hospitalization of a young person from Bodmin.

His father became concerned when his son turned up at the house complaining about hallucinations and paranoia. He said: ‘My son went from being absolutely normal to being psychotic.’ After spending six weeks in hospital, the boy’s anguished father complained to the police that his son had purchased the legal high known as B2, in a Cornish shop.

Stuart Benson, assistant head of Cornwall Council’s public health and protection said: “Some shops try to pass off these so called ‘legal highs’ as legitimate – seeming household or personal products, such as bath salts.”

Officers from Devon and Cornwall Police investigated all suspected shops to find people much younger than this boy were being sold drugs equivalent to Class B drugs.


Reported by Calypso Squibb, Gisele Parnall and Elena Salvoni

BBC School Report