Spice blamed for big rise in drug-related hospital admissions
THE “zombie drug” Spice has been blamed for a significant spike in the number of people needing hospital treatment for drug abuse in Wales.
A new report by Public Health Wales has found that hospital admissions related to cannabis and “synthetic cannabinoids” such as Spice have increased from 518 in 201112 to 1,323 in 2016-17.
It means hospitals across Wales are now treating more than three people every day for these cannabis-based substances. Spice, otherwise known as Black Mamba or Frozen Spice, has been linked to shocking video footage of people slumped and passed-out on high streets in broad daylight.
It is marketed as an alternative to cannabis by drug dealers but, chemically, the two drugs are very different.
Josie Smith, head of the Substance Misuse Programme at Public Health Wales, said: “The increase in harms associated with cannabis and cannabinoids are particularly challenging to interpret.
“This is in large part due to the growth in the use of synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists including Spice, which are often mistakenly described as legal highs.
“These substances do not behave like cannabis and in Wales, and across Europe, have resulted in many hospitalisations and even deaths.”
The report, called Data Mining Wales: The Annual Profile for Substance Misuse 2016-17, found that children between 10 and 14 years old – and even under the age of 10 – needed treatment last year for drug misuse.
For all age groups, there were 6,518 recorded hospital admissions related to illicit drugs – treating 5,138 different people – in 2016-17.
But over the past 10 years, the number of patients admitted has skyrocketed by 36.8% from 3,756 to 5,138. Public health experts have also warned that more people are needing hospital treatment for opioids, such as heroin, which are far more likely to cause serious psychological and physical harm.
According to the report, the number of people needing hospital treatment for opioids has risen from 2,598 in 2011-12 to 3,051 in 2016-17.
And the number of hospital admissions due to cocaine has almost doubled in five years, up from 245 in 2011-12 to 464 in 2016-17.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board had the highest proportion of people admitted to hospital due to drug abuse in 2016-17 (196 people per 100,000 population), followed by Cwm Taf (185) and Hywel Dda (170).
And the report found a strong link between illicit drug abuse and deprivation, with people nearly four times as likely to have a drug problem in the 10% most deprived areas than the 10% least deprived.
But encouragingly, with the exception of cannabinoids and cocaine, the report suggests that the problem of drug abuse in young people is actually declining.
Authors of the report say the problem is shifting to the older age brackets.
Despite the concerns over illicit drugs, people in Wales are still 2.3 times more likely to need hospital admission for alcoholspecific conditions.
There were 10,081 people admitted with an alcohol related problem in 2016-17, accounting for 13,512 admissions, which was a decrease of 7.6% on admissions during the previous year.
Hospital admissions related to cannabis and ‘synthetic cannabinoids’ such as Spice have almost trebled since 2011-12