Former Drug Addict warns Harlow students ‘It could happen to any of you’

Paul Hannaford Talk

FORMER drug addict turned public speaker Paul Hannaford visited Harlow College to talk to students about the dangers of drugs and knife crime. He is calling for a change surrounding drug education in Britain, claiming, ‘Headmasters are the biggest problem and what happened to me can happen to any of you.’

From Addict to Activist, Paul goes up and down the country talking to around 50,000 young people a year.

Since running these talks in the last seven years, Paul has received an overwhelmingly positive response from young people. Paul stated, ‘Since my talk they don’t want to take drugs, they’ve put down their knifes, they don’t want to join a gang, I get 2000 messages a month on social media from kids, I’m in the business of creating bright futures.’

After getting introduced to drugs at a young age, committing crime and being apart of a gang. Paul details the shift that turned him into a heroin addict, believing ‘I’ll try it once I’ll be alright’. Those seemingly innocent words initiated what would become a £500 habit a day. Paul states over the duration of his addiction ‘I stole 10 million pounds worth of stuff.’

Paul describes how his addiction still affects him to this day: ‘I’ve been 11 years sober now, I have 12 blood clots, my legs will never heal.’

In the talk that Paul gave at Harlow College he described the grim reality of his addiction, showing gory pictures, and the sad truth about his wasted life. He said, ‘Something I’ve got is a story, something you’ve got is a future, one day I was young, bright, intelligent, what happened to that little boy?’

When asked what he would say to that little boy, Paul replied ‘I would’ve gone and frightened the life out of him, I would’ve told him about choice and consequence. No one ever bothered coming to my school and making me aware, so what happened is technically my school left me vulnerable.’

The physical depravity and loss that the addict experiences from heroin is shocking. Paul stated, ‘I lost eight stone, half my body weight in five years, my mum hated me, I had nothing, no family, no job, no home.’

In an interview I had with Paul, he stated his view about legalisation of drugs, ‘If you’re going to legalise drugs there should be a condition that you educate every young person from the age of seven to about 18 about the dangers.’

Paul’s whole aim is centred on helping people and giving children ‘choice and consequence.’ Paul stated, ‘My job is to make sure as many kids as possible don’t take drugs. I’m trying to find out all the addicts among all the tens of thousands of kids I’m meeting. Those ones who do become addicts that you see in the street begging outside of shops was their missed opportunity.’

George Docking

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