Five years ago this week a new website, Why Not Find Out, was launched by the Angelus Foundation. Its target audience was young people, mainly 14 to 18 who may have been exposed to the relatively new phenomenon of ‘legal highs’ now called new psychoactive substances.
It was the first website in UK dedicated to raising awareness to young people about the dangers of this new wave of legal drugs. We created films, drug profiles and FAQs to allow young people to better measure risk and make more informed choices.
We also took the WNFO brand to festivals and freshers’ fairs (there’s Emily at Reading Uni in September) to help keep people safe at times when they could be vulnerable to experimentation with often untested substances.
A lot has changed since 2012. The NPS environment has always been a rapidly changing scene with new substances coming and going in just a few months or weeks. So we had to be agile to these changes and relied on our expert panel to keep us abreast of emerging trends.
A highly significant change to the function of WNFO was passing the Psychoactive Substances Act in May 2016. We had to adapt the website to acknowledge these substances were no longer legal to supply. The legislation had an immediate and substantial impact. The largest national survey on prevalence in England and Wales showed that in its first year there was a 55% reduction in NPS use among young people and 65% fall among young men.
Just as significant was the merger between Angelus and Mentor in October 2016. It was an opportunity to include a wider range of substances in WNFO to reflect legal changes, new drug trends and our broader prevention agenda. So now there is information on steroids, alcohol, nicotine and Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs). It is important for young people to be educated about the risks from substances regardless of their legality.
The new site is different in that in no longer solely addresses the harms from new psychoactive substances. But it is the same as ever in two respects: firstly, it will continue to evolve with new profiles and films being developed; and secondly, it is will remain dedicated to helping young people to stay safe.