Legal high drugs use warnings

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RISING numbers of drugs users in Wigan are being admitted to hospital with mental health problems, new figures reveal.

Official NHS statistics show Wigan has one of the North West’s highest rates of admissions to hospital for drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders.

Drug charities today warned that a new breed of drugs, including so-called ‘legal highs’, were causing significant problems.

But health chiefs played down the figures and stressed that a wide range of drug services were available to help diagnose complex mental health issues.

A spokesman for Ashton, Leigh and Wigan Primary Care Trust (PCT) said: “The PCT cannot reach any conclusions based upon two years of data in isolation.

“The PCT commissions a wide range of community and inpatient drug services, and also dual diagnosis services for individuals with complex mental health and drug problems.”

The NHS Information Centre’s annual survey of drug misuse in England has revealed 487 hospital admissions in Wigan were related to mental health problems from drug use in 2009/10.

The study also showed 65 of the admissions were primarily diagnosed as drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders. And last year, 117 hospital admissions were because of drug poisoning.

Harry Shapiro, from Drugscope, said: “While there is no evidence of a new generation of heroin users, our members running young people’s services report cannabis and alcohol as significant problems.

“We must be mindful too of the potential impact of a new breed of drugs, the ‘legal highs’, which could present new challenges to services.”

Nationally, the number of admissions to hospital in England due to a drug-related mental health or behavioural disorder rose by 5.7 per cent to 44,585.

The number of hospital admissions due to drug poisoning also rose by 4.8 per cent, to 11,618, with those aged 16-24 the most likely to be treated.

In 2009/10 a total of 206,889 people received help from drug services, with men almost three times more likely than women to get that support.

However, encouragingly, 23,680 (38 per cent) of the 62,685 people who were treated for drug dependency ended up no longer addicted to the substance that had led to their treatment.