Use of illegal synthetic drug which turns people into zombies can be damaging, according to constabulary
The effects of former legal high Spice reach far beyond the health risks for the user.
Police in Blackpool are concerned about the increasing use of the dangerous synthetic drug and the risks it poses for officers.
On Saturday, The Gazette revealed how the substance is turning users into ‘zombies’ on the streets of the resort, while yesterday we looked at how Blackpool Council’s public health team is working to help the vulnerable people who end up hooked on the stuff.
Today, the union which represents police officers in Lancashire has voiced its concerns over the increasing use of former ‘legal highs’ and how that is helping to fuel a rise in assaults on police officers.
Rachel Baines, chairman of the Lancashire Police Federation, is concerned by the number of incidents, many of them involve people with mental health issues.
Spice, also known as synthetic cannabinoids, has been an issue nationally for several years now following the increase in availability of legal highs
Her concerns follow an attack on an officer at Blackpool police station by a man who had been under the influence of Spice.
Leon Miller, 19, stabbed a detective with a pen as he was being questioned at Bonny Street.
He had been under the influence of Spice when arrested and the drug was highlighted in court as contributing to his disturbed mental state.
Those working on the front line are spending an increasing amount of their day dealing with public safety issues with just 20 per cent of police time now spent on fighting crime.
Miss Baines said: “Police are being asked more and more to deal with circumstances for which they may not necessarily have the appropriate training.
“The increasing use of these substances is a concern.
“Assaults on police do appear to be on the increase.
“Many of the problems we are facing on a daily basis relate to mental health problems and the use of these substances can be a contributory factor towards that.”
Lancashire Police insists Spice is no bigger a problem in Blackpool than anywhere else in the county.
The Gazette spent two months asking the force for answers about the use of Spice in Blackpool and the scale of the problem.
Following the emergence of video footage last week the Constabulary finally issued a response.
A spokesman said: “Spice, also known as synthetic cannabinoids, has been an issue nationally for several years now following the increase in availability of legal highs.
“However, since May 2016 it has been illegal to take, give away or sell spice and in December new legislation made spice illegal to possess.
“These substances are dangerous and if you take something which is not natural, the effects can be damaging.
“Our advice remains that people should not take them as they simply have no idea what they could contain or the health risks involved.
“We have been working to address issues in the resort relating to anti-social behaviour such as begging, anti-social drinking and drug abuse, including the use of Spice.
“We recognise such behaviour can be concerning for residents and holidaymakers and are working with our partners, both supporting these individuals and taking enforcement action where appropriate. We are committed to keeping the town safe and will continue to do so.
“We believe that there is no immediate cause for concern and the issue in Blackpool relating to the use of Spice is no greater than elsewhere in the country.
“If you have concerns about drug use in your area, including Spice, then you should call police on 101.”
‘Although it’s self-inflicted, these people need help’
The Gazette’s investigation into the use of Spice in Blackpool sparked lively debate among readers.
A video showing people believed to be under the influence of the drug was viewed by thousands of people.
From concerns for the vulnerable people in the grips of addiction to calls for the authorities to do more to tackle problem and clean up the resort’s image, it sparked a wide range of view points.
Below is a selection of your comments:
Anne Dalton Bibby posted on Facebook: “It’s not just in Blackpool it’s everywhere – these people need help they are still humans suffering and yes it’s self inflicted but let’s not judge.
“They are still someone’s sons/daughters and it could happen to anyone.”
Casee Malakian Leigh wrote: “Legalise marijuana. Many have smoked Spice when it was legal as a substitute.
“Now it’s illegal they just think: ‘well so is weed’. But marijuana doesn’t kill. Spice has. Spice will again.”
Donna Marie Murphy added: “I was walking down the prom Saturday with my daughter and there was a woman sat on a shop window ledge taking white powder out of a packet and rubbing it on her gums.
“This was at 4pm the streets need cleaning up. Its getting worse here.”
Jane Parkinson said: “This is awful to see and yes they do look bad but when it’s someone’s family member it’s heartbreaking. They need help.”
Kath Morrison wrote on Facebook: “They choose to take it so it’s up to them if they wish to kill themselves.”
Adele White said: “Not enough enforcement or help for drug users in this town.
“People even travel in with recreational drugs and go out in our town. Just ask the local cabbies – we see it all.”
One user, Born to Blackpool, posted on The Gazette’s website: “Some people don’t want help?
“Well get them sectioned and forcibly help them.
“Find the suppliers and cage them. Time for undercover police operations and public informers who know who these suppliers are.”
Roger Goodred added: “When I was caught at school smoking a cigarette, I was given six strokes of the cane on my outstretched hand. It hurt and put me off smoking.
“Kind words of sympathy would not have worked and never do, but that is all that society now uses to deter these people from destroying their brains and making themselves a liability for society.”