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Why Spice Is Rife in Britain’s Jails

Prisoners in Britain’s jails are twice as likely to be addicted to the drug spice when they leave compared to when they entered according to a leading expert.

Dr. George Ryan from Public Health England stated that the explosion in the use of the drug spice, a powerful kind of synthetic cannabis, was the cause of the dramatic increase in prison violence that resulted in bullying, violence and even death.

Dr. Ryan, an advisor to the Government, warned that spice is fairly easy to smuggle into prison since it was a liquid that you can spray onto a typical cigarette, which is allowed in most prisons. A thumbnail size of paper can have the spray on it which can be smoked at a later time.

In the north west of England, urine tests at 10 prisons showed that approximately 8% of prisoners had spice in their system when they entered prison; however, 16% were positive when they were released.

On the contrary, other drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and heroin all showed a dramatic drop in use through a prison sentence. Only 1% of prisoners showed up positive for cocaine when they were released compared to around 25% on arrival.

The drug is extremely potent and users get much more value for their money. In prison, the drug is still relatively cheap. The higher the potency, the more likely it is to become addicted.

What is Spice?

Spice isn’t just a single drug, but it refers to the name given to a collection of similar drugs called synthetic cannabinoids, which are made to imitate the effects of cannabis. They were banned last year, but were initially sold for legal highs.

The newer versions are even more potent and unstable according to experts. Users appear to be in a “zombie-like” state and the drug is very addictive and can set off psychotic episodes.

Prisoners like spice because it is difficult to detect and it is cheap. Tests to detect this drug have been developed only been developed recently. Zoom Testing supplies a Spice Identification Test kits to many UK prisons, helping them to combat the use of this drug in British jails.

Until May this past year it wasn’t illegal for prisoners to possess spice while imprisoned, however, the law at this time states culprits found with the drug can potentially face as much as 2 additional years in jail along with a fine.

Epidemic Levels of Spice Drug Usage

Prison officials have said that the drug’s use is already at epidemic levels. Hertfordshire’s Mount prison had a 2-day riot in July that was linked to an increase in the supply of spice.

Home Office statistics indicate two out of every three prison illegal drug seizures are for what are known as ‘new psychoactive substances’, and spice accounts for 99 % of them.

In the beginning 10 months of 2015, officials at HMP Forest Bank, close to Manchester, confiscated 4.4kg of spice – 39 times the 114g of cannabis and 210 times the 21g of heroin confiscated throughout the same timeframe.

Dr. Ryan noted the extensive consumption of spice might possibly explain a rise in physical violence in prisons because powerful strains can result in 10 to 12 inmates requiring medical treatment daily.

The extremely addictive drug could place users in a ‘zombie-like’ condition or even result in psychotic bouts.

Spice is presently only regarded as a severe problem in prisons occupied by adult males, even though there were a few occurrences of it being used in youth facilities as well as women’ s prisons.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman statistics indicate 79 inmates identified or highly suspected to have already been abusing spice or very similar ‘new psychoactive substances’ passed away in prison from June 2013 and September a year ago.

Of these deaths, 2 were considered murders and 56 resulted from prisoners who were high on the drug fatally injuring themselves.

Photo Credit: “Lancaster Castle” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Neil T

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