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Exclusive This Is What's Happening in Britain's Drug Scene Right


10.19.2018 | Anthony Jerome

So now, after starting on Spice, I'm chasing three habits instead of one.". "One day in November I'd been on the rattle from Spice for two days," he ls me. Since then I've also started using crack. "I was sweating, I had the shakes, felt sick and couldn't get to sleep. One of the older residents suggested I try heroin to calm me down. Now I smoke a £10 bag of heroin a day at night after Spice. It didn't knock me out like Spice did – it made me tired – but it helped take the rattle off. Sam, in his early twenties, is one of a growing group of young homeless hos residents in Newcastle who have started using heroin on the back of Spice.

The survey revealed that in several parts of the country, young people – a demographic not associated with heroin these days – have been reported as using the opiate to self-medicate the side effects of Spice use. Published today by DrugWise, a study I co-authored – " Highways and Buyways: a snapshot of UK drug scenes " – includes interviews with drug treatment workers, police officers, researchers and other experts representing 32 organisations and 13 police constabularies.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications diverted onto the black market are a rising presence on the UK drug scene, according to the report. Alongside valium and tramadol, the anti-epilepsy drugs pregabalin and gabapentin have become a mainstay of diverted medications taken by heroin users.

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Exclusive This Is What's Happening in Britain's Drug Scene Right

Over the last two years, health workers have been dealing with an HIV epidemic among homeless drug injectors. One of the causes of this spike is an escalating number of city centre rough sleepers opting to inject powder cocaine, a rarity in Britain. At the other end of the country, in Glasgow, exists another counter-intuitive drug scene. As with the injection of crack, a form of cocaine that is rarely sold in Glasgow, cocaine injecting often entails more frequent and risky use of needles.

Some names have been changed. @Narcomania.

In conclusion, the DrugWise report says the British drug market is slowly reconfiguring itself since being shaken up by a dive in purity levels and the arrival of NPS eight years ago.

"We've seen using valium for withdrawal, then the valium sellers are selling heroin, and so they will try that.".

The rise in purity of ecstasy pills has been well documented, with some pills containing quadruple doses: 300mg of MDMA. The move away from NPS use in some areas comes at a time, the report found, of "unprecedented" street purity levels in traditional substances, namely heroin, crack and powder cocaine and ecstasy, alongside the continued rise of the black market in prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Heroin, powder cocaine and rock cocaine have risen from sub-20 percent purities in 2010 to more common purities in 2016 of between 43 and 74 percent.

Alongside Newcastle, Scarborough, Southampton, Stoke, east London and Manchester, Belfast has seen a similar picture develop. Most of the hoss said these young people who were on Spice are all on heroin now.". One drug expert explained: "There is a new phenomenon of young people as young as 17 starting to use heroin in Belfast, mainly on the back of using Spice.

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When the synthetic cannabinoid Spice first gained a following among internet drug geeks as a cheap, mellow, legal marijuana substitute in 2009, no one predicted what would happen next.

But it's creating long-term health problems.". Some are taking up to 40 codeine-containing pills – such as Nurofen Plus and co-codamol – a day. In Hartlepool, codeine is particularly popular with housewives, as one drug service told the survey: "These housewives use codeine regularly throughout the day, to take the edge off, make them more relaxed, less stress, so they can cope. Meanwhile, in places such as Hartlepool, Northern Ireland and Tyneside, codeine is increasingly being used, the report says, by adults as a way of getting through the day.

Photo: Jae C Hong AP/Press Association Images). (Top photo: A heroin user in the US preparing to inject. Image used for illustrative purposes.

(Photo Stickpen, via ). A spoonful of Promethazine-codeine cough syrup.

Like others fresh to heroin from Spice, he has also started using crack. "Someone gave me some heroin and I injected it. Kevin, 26, almost died during his first heroin hit, taken intravenously last summer. I overdosed and an ambulance came to save me." Despite this, he now regularly uses heroin as a comedown for Spice. It felt better than valium and just went onto my back. "I was cutting down on Spice because I was sick of the scene and needed something to make me sleep for the night," he says.

Instead of making people feel slightly stoned, demand for a stronger hit led to a drug with side effects more reminiscent of crystal meth than weed. It left users agitated, incapable of sleep, aggressive and addicted, and caused havoc among young offenders, the homeless and in the prison system. Under myriad brand names and legal bans, synthetic cannabinoid products – now generally known as Spice, after the original – became increasingly unpredictable, potent and toxic.

Despite falls in the number of cannabis users, drug services have reported a rise in people coming in for treatment for problems with the drug. It says if cannabis was a regulated drug then treatment for problem users would not be so badly neglected. But according to a separate report published today by drug policy group Volteface, "Black Sheep: An investigation into existing support for problematic cannabis use", the help out there is largely inadequate.

"The USP of Spice was legal, accessible, did not come up in drug tests, cheap. But it is starting to lose all these selling points. One drug expert quoted in the report says that in the face of highly pure traditional drugs and the ban on legal highs, he believes Spice and other NPS are living on borrowed time in Britain. So unless it's being imported into the UK in large amounts, supply may not be maintained.". I'm not convinced there will be a big enough market, as its users need continuity of supply, otherwise they will go onto something else.

Drug services are finding, however, that some people are replacing NPS with old school drugs such as cannabis, alcohol and opiates. The survey provides the first litmus test into the impact of last year's Psychoactive Substances Act – which banned the sale of new psychoactive substances (NPS) from head shops – on the supply and use of Spice. And it reveals a divided picture: in around half of the areas surveyed, the Act has barely affected the market, with many users buying drugs under the counter from head shops, from street dealers and the internet. By contrast, in the rest of the areas surveyed the law has done what it set out to do, resulting in reduced availability and use, even in prisons.

The need for drugs seems to be accepted within the community, but is kept behind closed doors.". As one drug worker explained: "There is a no drinking rule at sea, but that does not stretch to taking illegal drugs, as long as it's kept under control.

Codeine is also on the rise with young people as a recreational drug. Similarly, one source told the survey that the benzodiazepine Xanax, another drug linked to American celebrity culture, is becoming more popular with young adults. In Southwark and Kent, drug workers say they are seeing more teenagers, inspired by US hip-hop culture, drinking Lean (also known as Dirty Sprites, Sizzurp and Drank), which is codeine, in the form of cough syrup, mixed with a soft drink.

Max Daly.

Many of these young people are unfamiliar with the risks of taking heroin. A source confirmed that he had been addicted to Spice and that he had recently started using heroin. However, the results of the autopsy have not yet been released and therefore the cause of death has not been confirmed. Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old who was known to drug and homeless services in Newcastle died.

(Photo: Markus Schreiber AP/Press Association Images). Packets of Spice on sale before the Psychoactive Substances Act was introduced.

"Spice can be a gateway to heroin and crack. Portis ls me that heroin has crept onto young people's drug menus because the Spice withdrawal is so severe. Since last year I've seen a rise in young people moving from Spice to heroin," says Mick Portis, a harm reduction worker at the city's Lifeline project.

UPDATE 07/02/17: An earlier version of this article did not make it clear that the results of the autopsy of the 19-year-old in Newcastle had not been released, and so a cause of death had not yet been confirmed. More on VICE:.

The DrugWise research into Britain's drug market reveals a patchwork of hidden scenes – a narcotic landscape that is becoming increasingly varied and mutable, from codeine-addicted housewives in Hartlepool and West Country fishermen on speed, to Lithuanian dealers in Belfast and homeless powder cocaine injectors in Glasgow.

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Official statistics show amphetamine use is increasingly uncommon in the UK. However, the report found it's a drug still being used, albeit under the radar. For example, as well as speed being popular among a large group of middle-age injectors in Lincolnshire and domestic abuse victims in east London, the drug is also being used by fishermen in coastal areas in the south west of England as an alertness aid in an increasingly competitive industry.

None of the previous tipping points could have been predicted, so what comes next remains to be seen.". "The history of drug use in the UK since the Second World War," says the report, "has been propelled by a series of 'tipping points' such as smokeable heroin, HIV/AIDS, rave culture and the internet.

Now, nine months after the Psychoactive Substances Act banned all "legal highs" such as Spice, research into the latest UK drug trends has revealed that the continued use of the substance may be breeding an as yet unreported side-effect: an increase in heroin use among young people.

As we walk down one of the city's smartest Georgian streets, Portis ls me of two teenage boys he knows – who've begged on this street for money to pay for Spice – who have started sex work and moved onto heroin. "We've seen people using valium for withdrawal, then the valium sellers are selling heroin, and so they will try that," he says, adding that crack – never a big drug in Newcastle, unlike 30 miles down the road in Middlesbrough – has entered the city "in a big way in the last two months".

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