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Expert reaction: The use of “spice”

Posted on 10 August 2018

An expert in mental health and substance abuse has appeared on BBC Breakfast to talk about efforts to stem the use of the synthetic drug “spice”.

"Spice" was made illegal in 2016.

Ian Hamilton, from the Department of Health Sciences, said: “Although use of Novel Psychoactive Substances, such as 'spice', has reduced since the introduction of legislation banning them, the impact of these drugs on the more vulnerable groups in our communities such as homeless people and prisoners appears to have worsened.

“Prisoners and homeless people are known to have a range of mental health and social problems so is no surprise that these groups are attracted to using drugs like ‘spice' as they are effective at numbing psychological pain and alleviating boredom.

Increased risk

“The new law appears to have been effective in reducing harm for middle class teenagers but has only increased the risks to less affluent groups.

“Since the ban on these drugs was introduced, there are fewer varieties available but the ones that are in circulation seem to be more potent. This makes it difficult for users to know how much they should take to avoid overdosing or developing serious health problems.

Budget cuts

“At the same time drug treatment budgets has been cut leaving the most vulnerable people with limited access to help.

“It is left to the police and paramedics to respond to users in emergency situations. Although these services do respond, they are not equipped to deal with anything more than the emergency situation they respond to. The visible consequence of cutting drug treatment budgets is homeless people overdosing on 'spice' in city centres across the country.

“Instead of investing money in policing the supply and use of drugs like 'spice' the government could invest in protecting people by ensuring timely and appropriate drug treatment is made available.”

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