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New Psychoactive Substances (NPS): Resource pack for informal educators and practitioners

Children and young people growing up in the 21st century are exposed to risk. Risk and risk-taking are a natural part of the transition into adulthood. But what do we mean by risk? In young people’s lives there are:

• risk factors: those circumstances whereby the best outcomes are compromised due to, among other things, poverty, deprivation, ill health and poor relationships.
• risk behaviours: potentially harmful behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and substance misuse and unsafe sex.
• young people at risk: this term is used to refer to those who are potentially vulnerable, such as subject to abuse or neglect or in care or custody.

NPS or so called “legal highs” present a danger because:
• they are, or have been, easily accessible.
• they may not necessarily hold the same perceived threat to health and well-being as other, ‘traditional’, illegal drugs.
• some young people incorrectly think NPS are safer because of their perception that they used to be legal or that they come in branded packaging. This exposes young people to risk and participation in risky behaviours.

It is important therefore that we are clear about how we respond to risk and the part it plays in the lives of (potentially vulnerable) young people. Equally important is that, where possible, interventions are made using evidence-based practice. Young people have told us, for example, that they welcome personal development that enables them to navigate risk, to build their self-efficacy and life skills and to feel able to resist peer pressure without threatening friendships and meaningful relationships.