Synthetic drugs present the “most severe public health issue we have faced in decades”, according to Cambridgeshire's and Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioners.
And PCC Marc Jones is urging the Government to reclassify drugs such as Spice to grade A so “the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern” as those dealing in heroin.
In an open letter to all Home Office ministers Mr Jones has asked for the Government to create a strategy to deal specifically with synthetic drugs to provide “an effective and consistent approach” and to improve the level of support for those hooked on the drugs.
The letter, signed by all 19 other Conservative PCC’s, said these so-called “zombie drugs” had effects on the individual and the community that were “much worse” than cannabis and that police forces were being forced to take the lead in fighting the rising tide of use with little or no support from other agencies.
“The drugs are often referred to as “zombie drugs” due to the incapacitating and unpredictable psychoactive effects which manifest once taken; users are increasingly seen slumped on the streets in a state of semi consciousness, often passed out, sometimes aggressive and always highly unpredictable,” said Mr Jones in the letter.
“The wide scale abuse of these debilitating drugs within towns, cities and even villages across the UK is one of the most severe public health issue we have faced in decades and presently the response to tackle the issue is woefully inadequate.
“As public health and substance misuse services are not currently taking the lead in meeting this growing challenge it is falling to the police to respond to public concerns of community safety, adding yet further to policing demand without addressing the underlying issues.”
The letter points out the PCCs are “very supportive of Government’s wish to tackle illegal substance misuse in general” but believes the reclassifying of synthetic drugs would be an important step in that battle.
“We would urge that synthetic cannabinoid products are reclassified from class B to class A. At present, the current justifications for the classification of B are rooted in the chemical similarities which Spice shares with cannabis. However, such parallels are purely chemical as the physical and psychological effects these substances have on their users are on a much more extreme scale to those of cannabis.
“In practice they are more comparable with class A drugs such as heroin and it is therefore imperative that it and the dealers who peddle this misery are treated with the same severity and concern.
“It is also vital that the level of support to those hooked on Spice is placed firmly on the agenda, including pathways away from criminalising the vulnerable where possible and ensuring appropriate services are in place to treat their addiction.”
Mr Jones pointed out synthetic drugs are being increasingly linked to deaths, with 27 in 2016 according to the Office for National Statistics and the number of ambulance calls involving these psychoactive drugs has reached a total of 233 in four months across Lincolnshire alone.
“This emphasizes the need for public health officials to address issue and take action now, but this will not happen without Government direction,” he said