Authorities say another wave of people needing medical attention in the city centre after apparently taking spice left them ‘overwhelmed’ at the weekend.
A series of pictures Tweeted by Andrew Errington, the city council’s director of Community Protection, show several people unconscious on the streets early on Sunday morning (Sept 3).
It follows dozens of reports across the summer of people suffering with the distinctive “zombie-like” symptoms of the drug, which have led to repeated calls to police and East Midlands Ambulance Service. Some people have needed hospital treatment.
Mr Errington Tweeted community protection staff were ‘overwhelmed’ on Sunday morning (September 3) by several cases of people slumped around the city centre who appeared to have taken spice or mamba – synthetic cannabinoids.
The City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community, Toby Neal, said: “This is a challenge we haven’t dealt with yet. It’s worse in other cities, but our problem is the thin end of the wedge. We need to talk about how we deal with it. ”
He added the council was planning to lobby the Government for more powers for community protection staff to move on people who use the drug in the street and compel them to get help from addiction services.
“A whole lot of it [current strategy] revolves around the desire and power of the police to arrest [users],” he added.
“I’m not saying that’s always appropriate – but we need to try something different.”
The drug has become widespread in the city’s homeless community, meaning users are often found collapsed and in need of help by members of the public and police and council community protection officers.
Users can end up in zombie-like states, unable to move or communicate. In some cases the drug cause breathing difficulties and it has been linked to several deaths.
On August 12 a 37-year-old man died after he collapsed at an address on London Road. The exact cause is still being investigated, but Notts Police warned initial inquiries found he had taken the drug just before he fell ill.
And in one July weekend, nine people were found slumped together having apparently taken the illegal high, which mimics the effects of strong cannabis, but is far more potent.
East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) said in July it dealt with dozens of incidents – and around six a day.
On Monday (September 4) an EMAS spokeswoman said calls had since tailed off and an ambulance crew was only needed at one incident over the weekend in Notts, during which the patient left the scene before staff could arrive.
Last month Apollos Clifton-Brown, operations manager for Nottingham Recovery Network, said a surge in a ‘dirt cheap’ supply of the drug could be behind the incidents.
He said at the time: “What we are seeing is vulnerable individuals. A lot of them are street homeless – what’s worrying is they are putting themselves in a very vulnerable position. They are people who we know well and that in itself is quite uncomfortable.”
Spice or mamba were formerly known as ‘legal highs’ but were made illegal a year ago.
Neighborhood Inspector Ruby Burrow, of Notts Police said: “We are working closely with partners in the city to curb supply, support vulnerable users and encourage healthier lifestyle choices. As we have seen in footage released, those who use these substances, especially in a public environment, put themselves at significant risk of harm.
“We will continue to conduct regular plain clothed operations in the city which have proven to be very successful in targeting other types of drug. These methods are long-term and do take time however we are also committed to supporting our communities and keeping people safe.
“New legislation, enacted over a year ago, limits the supply of psychoactive substances, resulting in a resurgence of street dealing and the use of the internet.
“It is thought that the increase in use is due to the substance being cheaper than most other drugs and it is also considered more addictive. Some users say they feel an addiction within a few days of starting to take it.
“Our focus, along with other agencies, is to keep people safe and encourage them to seek the help that’s available. We do use legislation but only when it is absolutely necessary. However, action will always be taken against those supplying these substances.”
She asked anyone with information about the supply of psychoactive substances to contact the force on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
More information and help and support with drug addiction is available from Nottingham Recovery Network.