POLICE and a homeless charity have warned about the dangers of ‘legal highs’ in Chester after 10 people were reportedly hospitalised and one died last week.
Adam Dandy, of Share Shop based on Northgate Street, said the numbers of people suffering from the effects of drugs known as Spice and Black Mamba have shot up in the past month.
The ‘psychoactive substances’ are highly addictive and leave users in a ‘zombie’ state.
It is believed they have been linked to hundreds of hospital admissions across the UK.
A law came into effect in May last year prohibiting the supply and production of the substances and a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) exists in Chester city centre banning their use.
But police chiefs and volunteers at Share Shop have been alarmed at the continued widespread use of the drugs.
Describing the situation as a “legal high hell”, Mr Dandy said: “Over the past four weeks we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people suffering from the effects of so called ‘legal highs’ in the city of Chester, specifically from the drugs known as Spice and Black Mamba.
“These drugs are very strong, very addictive and also very cheap in comparison to other better-known drugs, which make them very appealing to the most vulnerable in society.
“In just one day last week we received reports that 10 people had been admitted in to The Countess of Chester Hospital after taking these drugs with one unconfirmed fatality.”
More needs to be done to target suppliers while those addicted to the drugs must be offered a greater level of support, the charity says.
Mr Dandy, who speaks to homeless people on a regular basis as part of his charity’s work, said it currently takes too long for people to access support services.
Cheshire Police has vowed to crack down on the problem and stressed work has been ongoing to disrupt the supply chain.
Chief inspector Mike Evans, of Chester Local Policing Unit, said: “Enquiries are currently ongoing to trace the source of the drugs and we are also working closely with partner agencies, the local community and a number of charities to address the issue.
“It is also worth reminding people that a public space protection order exists in Chester city centre meaning consuming these drugs is an offence.”
He accepted there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of incidents in Chester involving psychoactive substances over the past month.
“We are extremely concerned these substances could have led to a number of people being hospitalised and may also be linked to the death of one man,” he said.
“I would strongly urge people not to take these drugs and for people to be aware of the dangers of taking these substances.
“If people have taken any psychoactive substances and have concerns about their health they should contact the medical services as soon as possible.”
A spokesman for the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said they could not comment on the numbers of admissions or the reported death.
Anyone with information on the drugs should call the police on 101 or pass information anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
See full story in the Chester Leader