An emerging drug epidemic has hit the streets of Wigan, leaving homeless people ‘passed out’ in the town centre.
Reports of “Spice” use among the homeless and the younger population in the north west have been increasing in recent weeks, and concern is growing the powerful substance, which leaves users in a ‘zombie-like’ state, is becoming increasingly popular in the borough.
The Post has been informed by regular visitors to the town, in particular Arcade Street, that there has been an ambulance “every day for the last two weeks” attending to people lying unconscious in the street outside The Brick Homeless Shelter.
One Wiganer, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “In the last two weeks it has been every day. There have been people lying on the floor off their heads. No one seems to be moving them on.
“There have been two or three ambulances in the area every day for these people who are just out of it on that spice stuff.”
Despite multiple efforts, the Post has received no comment from The Brick.
In the last two weeks it has been every day. There have been people lying on the floor off their heads
Spice, a synthetic substance made up of herbs and manufactured chemicals, has become a fast-growing problem due to its addictive nature, severe side effects, and its low street cost, around £5 a gram.
Users who smoke the substance typically experience a mental “high” lasting up to 12 hours as well as physical side effects including a fast heart rate, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and extreme nausea. Wigan Council will soon launch a programme to combat the growing problem and learn more about the drug, which is commonly linked with poor social circumstances.
Prof Kate Ardern, Wigan Council’s director of public health, said: “Like most towns and cities across the country we aware of a limited number of people taking Spice in Wigan borough. Wigan and Leigh Recovery Partnership, the council’s drug and alcohol service, will support any individual that uses drugs, including Spice.
“The council has recently invested in the Greater Manchester Drugs Early Warning System which will improve connections between agencies around drugs intelligence. This will help with all drugs, but particularly around Spice as the current evidence is very limited.”
The town hall is set to host the Wigan Drugs Early Warning System launch event in June which will include a specific section on Spice to improve all agencies’ response and interventions involving the drug.
Despite reports of the “zombie plague”, with users staggering around the streets in a stupor, Greater Manchester Police has only reported three incidents of “Spice” use in the Wigan area since the substance was banned in May 2016. Officers have attributed the low figures to a lack of “student residence” in Wigan and insisted that the town does not have a “significant” problem.
Insp Liz Sanderson, of Wigan police, said: “It’s hard to give a definitive answer on why these figures are so low. From our experience, the majority of Spice users are of the younger generation and due to the lack of student residence in Wigan, we can only assume that this is a reflection of that.
“A low level of reports is a positive thing, and essentially indicates that Wigan doesn’t have a significant problem with Spice.”
Leigh MP Andy Burnham has written to the Home Secretary calling for action to be taken to slow the spread of the drug in Greater Manchester’s streets.
He said: “There are reports that there have been eight deaths this year caused by Spice, although it is believed that there are likely to have been more. The effect it has on users, causing a zombie-like reaction, is frightening to others nearby, particularly parents with children.”
Mr Burnham has called for more resources to be handed to police and a review of the drug’s classification from class A to class B.
He added: “Spice has not appeared overnight - it has been slowly building over the last few years, and it appears that since its classification as a Class B controlled drug the formulation of the substance has been changed and it has become both more potent and more addictive. This is having a harmful effect on its users, many of whom are vulnerable and homeless, and in turn this is putting extra pressure on the NHS.”
Anyone with information on drug use or supply should report it to 101 or contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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