A FORMER legal high addict says the drugs ruined his life – but he is now back on track.
Jordan Ridley lost his job, his home and went to prison after becoming hooked on the drugs, which can be bought for as little as £5 a bag.
Now the 21-year-old says he has turned his life around, is about to start a new job and will be moving in with his partner.
But in March, Jordan was sentenced to eight weeks in prison after assaulting his then-girlfriend and spending £60 a day on the drugs, which left him “like a zombie”.
He said: “I could not sleep and it stripped all the weight off me.
“I’m 6ft 2ins and I was 8st when I went into prison. I’m 12st 6lbs now.
“Legal highs ruin your body and ruin your head. I was like a zombie. I would go to sleep standing up.
“I have seen kids flatline in the park on legal highs. I would not wish it upon anyone.
“I think the drugs are worse than heroin. I’ve seen heroin addicts come off that and move on to legal highs because they’re stronger.”
Despite the shock of going to prison, the former Nissan worker started using legal highs again after being released.
He moved into Sunderland’s YMCA in Toward Road, on his release and managed to kick the habit a week later by banning himself from going to shops selling the drugs and using his hobby of DJing to keep clean.
Jordan thinks the Government and police are fighting a losing battle by trying to ban the drugs and instead is calling for shop owners to ID potential buyers to make sure they are over 18.
He added: “Anywhere with a convenience store licence can sell them and they are cheaper than cannabis. They don’t even ask for ID. I’ve seen young girls buying them who don’t even look 16.
“There have been legal highs since the late 1990s. They would just keep changing the formulas. You will never get it under control.
“I have absolutely turned my life around and I want other people to do the same.”
Legal highs are used like illegal drugs but aren’t covered by current misuse of the laws, so are legal to possess or to use.
Another legal high user, who did not want to be named, said he was desperately waiting to get on to a detox programme after taking legal highs for 18 months.
The 20-year-old, who lives at the YMCA, said: “It takes me out of reality for a bit so I can forget my problems. I’ve tried to stop taking them and I can’t. I get withdrawal symptoms – bad heads, cold sweats.
“I’ve not eaten for six days and I have lost about four stone. I’m absolutely starving, but I can’t eat.
“I have flatlined off it and had a heart attack but I still take them.”
Other young residents of Sunderland’s YMCA have made a DVD which warns of the dangers of the drugs, which campaigners have linked to 50 deaths in the UK, to be shown around the country.
Leesa Lee, the centre’s training manager, said: “It is quite hard-hitting, but really effective and everyone who has seen it hopes it might stop young people from using.”
Abuse of the substances – sold as over-the-counter tablets and powders – has taken a devastating toll on some of the young residents of the centre, where drugs and alcohol are banned.
Leesa added: “They are stealing to fund addictions, they are not paying the rent or bills or buying food.
“We went through a stage of having the ambulance here once a day, but we seem to have got through the worst of it.
“Some organisations don’t work as closely with their young people as we do and it is hitting them now.”