Spice is so rife in Britain’s jails that inmates are now twice as likely to be addicted to the drug when they leave than before they enter, an expert has warned
Spice is so rife in Britain’s jails that prisoners are now twice as likely to be addicted to the drug when they leave than before they enter, a leading expert has warned.
Dr George Ryan, of Public Health England, said spiralling use of the drug – a potent form of synthetic cannabis - was behind an explosion of violence in prisons, causing ‘deaths, bullying and violence’.
Dr Ryan, a Government advisor, warned that it was relatively easy for prisoners to smuggle in spice as it was a liquid which could be sprayed onto regular tobacco – which most prisons allow. It can even be sprayed onto a piece of paper ‘the size of a thumbnail’, to be smoked later.
He revealed that urine tests carried out in 10 prisons in north west England had showed around 8 per cent of prisoners tested positive for spice on arrival but 16 per cent were positive on release.
By contrast, levels of other drugs like cannabis, cocaine and heroin all dropped dramatically during prison sentences. Just one in 100 prisoners tested positive for cocaine on release compared to one in four on arrival.
Speaking at PHE’s conference at Warwick University, Dr Ryan said: ‘Perhaps the most alarming statistic of all is that prisoners are twice as likely to use spice when they leave prisons as when they arrive.
‘So, effectively, use of spice doubles when people are incarcerated.
Prison officers warn use of the drug is at epidemic levels. In July, a two-day riot linked to a jump in supplies of the drug took place at The Mount prison (above) in Hertfordshire
‘It’s a very potent drug so people get a lot more bangs for their buck. It remains a very affordable drug in prison for some people. Higher potency forms increase the risk of people becoming dependent.’
Spice is not one single drug but the name for a group of similar chemicals known as synthetic cannabinoids designed to mimic the effects of cannabis. The drugs were sold as legal highs but were banned last year.
Experts say newer versions are stronger and more unpredictable. The highly addictive drug can leave users in a ‘zombie-like’ state or trigger psychotic episodes.
Spice is attractive to prisoners because it is cheap and was previously hard to detect – effective tests