Mother who changed legal high law has British Empire Medal

A mother who won her campaign to outlaw so-called legal highs after the death of her daughter has been honoured.

Maryon Stewart fought for a change in legislation after her 21-year-old daughter Hester died when she was given the ‘party drug’ gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) in 2009.

It had already been banned in countries including the US and Sweden.

Mrs Stewart lobbied successive home secretaries to ban such substances, which were designed to mimic the effects of illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis.

The mother founded a charity, the Angelus Foundation, and assembled an advisory panel of experts. 

Maryon Stewart (pictured left) fought for a change in legislation after her 21-year-old daughter Hester (right) died when she was given the ‘party drug’ gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) in 2009

In 2016 she succeeded in winning a change in the law when the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect, banning the supply of legal highs in Britain.

Mrs Stewart, 64, said her award of a British Empire Medal was bittersweet because she could not share it with her daughter, who had been studying molecular medicine at Sussex University when she died.

She said: ‘This is a very special, yet sad, day for me, as I’d love to share it with my daughter Hester.

Star quality! Chemist who became first Briton in space is given a top award

Pictured: Helen Sharman

Pictured: Helen Sharman

A Chemist who became the first British astronaut has been honoured for her services to science and technology education.

Helen Sharman, from Sheffield, was a scientist for confectioners Mars in 1989 when she heard a radio advert inviting people to apply to be an astronaut on a mission to the Russian Mir space station – then the biggest satellite in orbit.

Miss Sharman, who was 27 at the time, was selected out of 13,000 people and spent 18 months in intensive flight training.

During the mission, which launched on May 18, 1991, she carried out experiments including growing potato roots and exploring the effects of radiation on the outside of the spacecraft.

Since then, she has turned her focus to communicating science to the public. In 1997 she published a children’s book, The Space Place, and she has presented radio and TV programmes about chemistry and space flight.

Now 54, she works in Imperial College London’s chemistry department. She will become a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

‘I am so proud that my efforts to campaign against legal highs not only prompted government change but, through increased awareness, also prevented harm and saved many young lives, leaving other families whole.’

Mrs Stewart met with home secretaries and gave evidence about the dangers of legal highs to the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament. 

She warned that the so-called party drugs were often just as dangerous and addictive as illegal drugs, but that their widespread availability online and in shops misled users into believing they were safe.

In the case of GBL, the substance which killed Hester, it was nicknamed ‘coma in a bottle’ because it was potentially fatal when combined with alcohol. 

In 2012, before the ban, almost 100 deaths were linked to use of the new psychoactive substances in 2012, up from 12 in 2009. Use was also linked to psychiatric problems and other health issues.

Since the change in the law, official crime survey figures released in July showed a 55 per cent fall in use by 16 to 24-year-olds.

Public Health England figures revealed that the number of young people reporting health problems linked to use of the substances fell by 45 per cent.

Mrs Stewart, a health writer and broadcaster, said she believed the ban had saved thousands of lives.

She said: ‘When my daughter died part of me wanted to curl up and die with her. But I did not want other families to go through the same misery. 

‘The problem was out of control and other young people were at risk, and I knew something needed to be done. 

‘I worked with the Daily Mail and the media to make people listen, and I’m just so pleased that it means other young people knew more about the risks, and that other lives were saved. 

‘It feels as though my daughter’s death was not in vain.

‘I certainly didn’t start this thinking about honours or awards, I did it because it needed to be done, but I’m honoured to be a recipient and to accept it on behalf of the Angelus Foundation team.’