A number of deaths in prison linked to ‘Legal Highs’
According to a new report, the deaths of at least nineteen prisoners from 2012 to 2014 are linked to the so-called, legal highs.
The overseer of Prisons and Probations, Nigel Newcomen said it was proving difficult to manage and detect the substances.
His report calls for additional edification and training regarding the substances for both the prison staff and prisoners.
Between April 2012 and September 2014, the overseer examined 19 deaths where the victim was strongly suspected or known to be taking NPS (new psychoactive substances).
The focus of the report was on substances known as “Black Mamba” and “Spice” which have similar effects as cannabis.
Investigations revealed “erratic, out of character and violent” behavior among prisoners who were suspected to be using the drugs while others were incoherent and unable to stand properly.
One of the prisoners became sick physically, behaved in a strange manner and eventually died of a heart attack in the course of the same day, according to the report.
There are also reports of prisoners, including one of the dead victims using cigarettes ‘spiked’ by others who were testing new NPS batches to determine the effect before using the substance themselves.
In another instance, a female prisoner used legal highs and ended up severely mentally ill. Later, she died from self-inflicted injuries in hospital.
- Sold in different forms such as capsules, smoking mixtures, pills, powder and liquids. They can either be swallowed, snorted or even smoked.
- Often, these substances care available in “head shops” alongside other drug paraphernalia
- They are marketed either as incense, plant food or bath salts simply because they can never be labelled as suitable for consumption by humans.
- In the UK, the number of deaths recorded in 2012 linked to legal highs was 97 which rose from 12 recorded in 2009, according to the Center for Social Justice Figures.
- The independently run think tank states the United Kingdom records the highest users of legal high amongst the younger generation in Europe
- Currently, legal highs are not covered by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act since drugs are classified as illegal due to the chemical compound they contain. Legal highs composition is altered slightly such that they avoid the ban.
According to a report published in February by HM Inspectorate into Bristol, 7 cases of “Spice-related emergency admissions to hospital” were cited in 6 months.
Newcomen said use of these substances was a “source of increasing concern”.
He said “As these substances are not allowed in prison, and also because they are difficult to test for, it is possible that there are additional cases of prisoners who had used such drugs before their death”.
Further, he said, “Trading of these substances in prison can also lead to dent, violence and intimidation… as well as adding to the security and control problems facing staff.
There have been warnings from charities indicating legal highs have become the ‘drug choice’ since they can be bought easily.
A Psychoactive Substance Bill has been proposed by government which will ban “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect” though critics say it will lead to creation of illegal networks and criminalize those using herbal remedies.