Spice blamed for big rise in drug-re­lated hospi­tal ad­mis­sions

Cynon Valley - - ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE - MARK SMITH mark.smith@waleson­line.co.uk

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

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