A surge in incidents relating to so-called “zombie drugs” has been reported by Lancashire Police.
Over the last few months, young people have been photographed in an unresponsive state in a number of city centres after taking New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) with names such as ‘Spice’ and ‘Black Mamba’.
The police force reported that there have been nearly six times as many incidents in the past year compared to two years ago.
NPS are highly addictive and using them can lead to hallucinations, psychosis, muscle weakness and paranoia.
Last year, the Government introduced a blanket ban on the substances, also known as legal highs.
Officials had been banning the drugs on a case-by-case basis, however manufacturers could simply tweak the chemical composition of the substances and sell them legally again.
There were 18 incidents between April 2014 and March 2015 compared to 120 in the same period in 2016-17. The highest number of cases were reported in Blackpool, followed by Blackburn and Preston.
Speaking on behalf of The Ashley Foundation, a homeless charity in Blackpool, Sue Tweedle said the ban had helped to make NPS less readily available but that it was still accessible.
“I imagine calls to hospitals and ambulance crews are going through the roof. I couldn’t estimate the numbers but it’s definitely a growing problem”, she said.
Earlier this month, a police commissioner was fiercely criticised after calling for the legalisation of ‘zombie drugs’.
Arfon Jones, Police Commissioner for North Wales, said the drugs should be made legal again.
Welsh Assembly member Darren Millar described the calls as “outrageous”, saying: “I find his views a disgrace.
“These drugs are very dangerous and act as gateways to even more dangerous drugs. They ruin lives. We need fewer drugs in our society, not more.”