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Britain’s Monkey Dust ‘epidemic’ will likely continue until the UK changes its regressive drugs laws

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Britain’s Monkey Dust ‘epidemic’

Police and emergency workers in the UK have warned addicts over the growing availability of a synthetic drug that seems to give users super-human strength and leaves them in a dangerous zombie-like state. Similar to PCP, the substance is said to have caused some users to jump off high buildings and others to rip the flesh from other people’s faces with their teeth. Monkey Dust, which gained notoriety under the moniker “Bath Salts” in the US several years ago, is the street name for Methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinohexiophenone (MDPHP), a synthetic cathinone stimulant. It can be bought for as little as £2 ($2.54) per dose on the streets of Britain, where it is reported to have left many users in a state of psychosis, roaming around towns and cities at night, throwing their bodies about the place while screaming and shouting incoherently.

In a statement issued last week, Staffordshire Police Chief Superintendent Jeff Moore said his force had recorded 950 incidents involving the drug over a three-month period, noting how the highly-unpredictable substance makes users difficult to deal with, and poses a risk to both addicts and those around them. Moore said people who take the drug can be affected by it for several days, and that emergency workers often struggle to provide them with treatment, due to the differing effect the substance can have on people. The police chief spoke out after the death of two drug users was linked to the consumption of Monkey Dust by West Mercia Police last month. Speaking with the BBC last week, North Staffordshire health worker Debbie Moores described the substance as one of the most harmful drugs she and her colleagues have ever encountered, noting: “The impact on agencies is huge and it takes us away from what we are supposed to be doing.”

While Monkey Dust is classified only as a Class B drug in the UK, suggesting it poses a similar threat to users as cannabis, and could be purchased legally until the introduction of the New Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, it is known to reduce users’ perception of pain, remove inhibitions and cause vivid hallucinations and acute paranoia. Also referred to as “Cannibal Dust” and “Zombie Dust”, the drug causes users’ body temperatures to rise rapidly, and is said to make their perspiration smell of seafood. Police have described attempting to restrain Monkey Dust users as akin to trying to deal with the Incredible Hulk, noting how the drug appears to imbue those who take it with super-human strength. “People can remain in this state for two or three days, which is putting a significant strain on our resources, and that of our partners, such as the ambulance and the hospital,” Moore said.

The devastating effect the drug can have on people has been attracting high levels of media attention for years in the US, where its use has been widely documented from around the turn of the decade. In 2012, a naked man who was reported to have consumed Bath Salts was shot dead by police after ripping off a homeless man’s face with his teeth. Ronald Poppo lost an eye and most of his facial features when he was attacked by Rudy Eugene, during an attack witnesses described as looking like something out of a zombie film. In May of this year, police in Florida said they had arrested a woman who gouged her mother’s eyeballs out with glass shards before killing her while high on the drug. Camille Balla, 32, is said to have admitted murdering her mother when officers arrived at the property they shared. While Britain has yet to witness cases as depraved as these linked to the use of Monkey Dust, the fact that the substance appears to be growing in popularity in the UK only makes these types of incidents more likely.

Some drug workers have expressed the hope that the growing use of Monkey Dust across the UK is part of a passing fad, and that the drug’s increasing popularity will soon wane. This is unlikely. Much in the same way that other new psychoactive substances such as synthetic cannabinoids including Spice and Black Mamba have, Monkey Dust will likely grow in popularity among vulnerable groups such as the homeless and prisoners, who will remain attracted to it thanks its potency, low price and the ease with which it can be obtained. The sad truth of the matter is that these types of substances have become more attractive to many addicts than more traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine. While curious casual users will likely soon realise that consuming Monkey Dust is not a good idea, those seeking oblivion will view it as an easy and cheap way to achieve their goal.

Unfortunately, substances such as these will likely remain popular all the while countries such as the UK refuse to ditch their regressive drugs policies. While the debate around legalising or at least decriminalising substances such as heroin and cocaine is extremely complex, dealing with addicts as individuals who require treatment rather than punishment, as countries such as Norway are doing, might go some way to ensuring these types of substances are unable to trap our most vulnerable citizens in a stranglehold from which some of them will be unable to escape.

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe, new study reveals

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Scotland is drug death capital of Europe

Scotland has the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe, and fatalities linked to the consumption of substances such as heron in the country are on the rise, according to a new report from a government agency.

A statistical update from Audit Scotland on the nation’s drug and alcohol services has revealed that drug-related deaths rose to 934 in 2017, a 71% increase on the 525 people who lost their lives as a consequence of drug consumption in 2009.

Seventy-six percent of those deaths occurred in the 35 years and over age group, suggesting that drug problems are increasingly affecting older people in Scotland.

The most significant increase in drug-related deaths in this age category was recorded in people aged 45 and over, who accounted for 37% of fatalities in 2017, up from 20% of the total in 2009.

According to the update, opioids are the most problematic group of drugs, and are implicated in the majority of drug-related deaths in the country.

The study also found that while use of new psychoactive substances such as the synthetic cannabinoid Spice has declined in the general population since the introduction of the UK government’s Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, these types of drugs are still causing significant harm among vulnerable groups such as prisoners.

Commenting on the findings outlined in the update, Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: “The last decade has seen several notable achievements in drug and alcohol treatment in Scotland, including more recovery communities, improved drug harm reduction strategies and minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

“But without clear performance data around what measures are working, the government will continue to find it hard to achieve its aim of reducing deaths and better supporting people to recover.”

Earlier this week, the Press Association reported that former addicts had told UK Parliament’s Commons Scottish Affairs Committee that providing users of drugs such as heroin with replacement treatments such as methadone is leaving them wandering around “like zombies”.

Former heroin addict Sharon Brand, who now runs the Recovery Dundee charity, told the committee: “There’s people who have been on methadone since they were 15, 30 years now, there’s two generations in each family who are either on methadone or a chaotic user.

“I’ve not got a great opinion of methadone. I think done right, for a very short period, it could work but I think there are a lot more and better ways to help somebody get past that stage.”

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Dutch judges refuse to extradite suspected British drug smuggler to UK over fears he could be locked up in rat-infested jail

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rat-infested jail

Judges in the Netherlands have refused to extradite a suspected British drug smuggler back to the UK owing to fears about the conditions at a prison to which he might be transferred.

British prosecutors have applied for the man, who has not been named for legal reasons, to be extradited back to the UK following his capture after he had been on the run for almost two years.

At a hearing at the Court of Amsterdam, judges raised concerns that due to the man’s links to the Merseyside area, he could be locked up in HMP Liverpool if he were to be sent back to the UK to face a number of drug-related charges.

In a report published in January of last year, prison inspectors described conditions at the jail as the worst they had ever seen, noting high levels of violence, widespread abuse of drugs, which were being smuggled into the jail by drone, and the presence of rats and cockroaches.

Refusing to agree to the extradition of the man, who had been made the subject of a European Arrest Warrant while attempting to avoid being detained by police, the Dutch judges ruled: “In the opinion of the court, what has been put forward by the UK judicial authorities is too general and insufficient to assume the detention conditions in the aforementioned prison institutions have (significantly) improved…

“[T]he court concludes that there is a real risk that, in the event of surrender to the United Kingdom, the person claimed will be subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment.”

Responding to the Dutch court’s ruling, the UK Ministry of Justice said: “We strongly refute the idea that any of our prisons provide inhuman or degrading conditions.

“There have been significant improvements since the inspections of Liverpool, Birmingham and Bedford prisons and neither our domestic courts nor the European Court of Human Rights has ever ruled that they are in breach of Article 3.”

In its report at the beginning of 2018, HM Inspectorate of Prisons said it was hard to believe that the leaders of the jail had allowed it to deteriorate into such a poor condition.

HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said statistics relating to conditions at the jail did “not adequately describe the abject failure of HMP Liverpool to offer a safe, decent and purposeful environment”.

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Irish prison chiefs consider using new technology to prevent contraband being smuggled into jails by drone

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smuggled into jails by drone

Prison bosses in Ireland are examining how technology can be used to prevent organised criminal gangs using drones to smuggle contraband including drugs into jails.

Speaking at the Irish Prison Officers’ Association (POA) annual conference in Sligo on Thursday, the organisation’s President Tony Power told delegates that 50 packages containing drugs and other contraband were either dropped by drone or thrown into the exercise yards of Wheatfield Prison last month.

He went on to say that without investment in nets to prevent further attempts to smuggle contraband in to Irish jails using drones, prison authorities may need to consider preventing inmates from using exercise yards.

Power was speaking after it was reported last month that police in Ireland had arrested a man and a woman after drugs, mobiles phones and a drone were recovered from a vehicle close to Castlerea Prison in Co Roscommon.

Explaining how seriously authorities are taking the issue, Caron McCaffrey, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, said: “We’ve recently been looking at different technological solutions available to us to deal with this issue and I’m glad to say we are close to introducing a new technology on a trial basis in one of our prisons to see if this can assist us with keeping contraband out of our prisons.

“Staff from our operations directorate recently attended an international forum where we were looking at best practice and emerging technologies in relation to dealing with the issue of drones and other security threats to prisons.”

McCaffrey said that any technology used to prevent drones being used to smuggle contraband into Irish jails must be tested to ensure it poses no threat to members of the public.

In December last year, it was reported that the UK government was considering installing anti-drone technology at jails in England after a successful test of the system in Guernsey.

SkyFence technology, developed by UK-based Drone Defence, can locate a drone signal within a 1,000 metre radius and disable it.

The dangers posed by the criminal use of drones was highlighted last December when London’s Gatwick Airport was brought to standstill after several sightings of drones.

During an interview for a BBC Panorama documentary last month that examined the chaos at Gatwick, Professor David Dunn from the University of Birmingham said it is inevitable that terrorists will use drones to attack the West.

“Terrorists like novelty, and there’s also a symbolic value of using a drone to attack Western targets,” he said. “Everyone that we talk to who is concerned with security regards this as inevitable.”

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