Adam Owens' schoolfriend tells of the loss of his pal to deadly 'legal highs'
The best friend of tragic drugs victim Adam Owens has told how legal highs got a deadly grip on the popular teenager.
Luke Simpson, 17, who went to school with Adam at Regent House and later Southern Regional College in Bangor, said: "We were third year when it all started and things just escalated from there.
"A lot of people we know were just lucky that what happened to Adam didn't happen to them.
"We'd have been out and there were people who'd taken legal highs and you'd have seen them being sick all of a sudden.
"Everyone knows the dangers of the likes of cocaine and ecstasy but they don't know much about legal highs and every time one is banned another one is made."
Adam, 17, was found lying on the grass in Newtownards' West Winds estate in the early hours of April 13.
It is believed that he took a legal high called 'Doob' which was purchased in a shop on South Street in the town which has since closed.
Luke said: "A lot of people would have smoked Doob and I know Adam did.
"It was quite popular among people we knew, but it was difficult to get your hands on because people quickly realised how dangerous it was.
"Adam wouldn't really go into the shop himself to buy it, but the people he got it off would have used that shop in Ards.
"When we were at school, there were people who would smoke it with him, but none of us knew what it could actually do."
The heartbroken A-Level student also revealed that Adam was desperately trying to beat his addiction and even turned down invitations to go out with friends smoking the drugs that took his life.
"The thing about Adam was that he was peer pressured so easily," said Luke.
"He used to say, 'If anyone is taking legal highs just don't ask me to come out'.
"He told me that it wasn't that he didn't want to go out, it was just that he needed to get off legal highs."
Luke has welcomed the Government's plan to crack down on the substances, which claimed the life of his 17-year-old pal in April.
He believes Adam took drugs bought from a so- called 'head shop' in Newtownards, but warned they are freely available to order over the Internet.
Luke said: "Closing the shops that sell legal highs, like the one in Ards, is a step in the right direction, but people are always going to go online and get legal highs if they really want to.
"Smoking legal highs is an alternative to smoking weed which is often difficult to get, so if it can be bought over the internet, then it just makes the whole process even easier."
The potentially deadly cocktails are claimed to be inappropriate for human consumption, but have been sold across Northern Ireland disguised as incense and potpourri.
Luke said: "There used to be a website and you could get anything you wanted, from legal highs to hitmen.
"It was so accessible and there are now so many other websites that you don't even need to use bitcoins - you just Google it and it's there."
Since the loss of his pal, Luke is determined to use the experience and turn it into something positive.
Not only did he donate half of his birthday money to local drugs charity FASA, but he has also decided to pursue an alternative career.
"Adam's passing has completely changed my life," admitted Luke.
"Before, I was at tech doing A-Levels and wasn't sure what I wanted to do but now I know that I want to help people who are addicted to drugs and can't get the help they need."
He added: "People are so quick to judge yet they don't even bother to look beyond the surface.
"What if they were peer pressured into it and just physically couldn't get off them?
"If there's anyone who needs help with getting off legal highs, I'll be there to help them no matter who they are.
"It was too late for Adam but it's not too late for everyone.
"I don't want to ever see anyone else lose their best friend like I did."
Read more:DUP calls for ban on legal highs and 'head shops'