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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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Dance music festivals fuelling rise in ecstasy use among young people in South America, UNODC claims

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ecstasy use among young people in South America

Ecstasy and new psychoactive substances (NPS) that mimic the effects of MDMA are becoming increasingly popular among young people in South America, according to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In the latest edition of its Global SMART Newsletter for Latin America and the Caribbean, the agency said secondary school pupils and university students are taking the drugs in greater quantities at electronic music festivals.

The report also revealed that some Caribbean countries have experienced an uptick in the use of ecstasy-like substances largely on account of the fact that tourists are bringing the drugs with them while on holiday.

Noting that while seizures of these types of drugs are generally much lower in Latin America and the Caribbean than in North America and Europe, UNODC observes that some countries in the region have seen large amounts of ecstasy-like substances discovered by law enforcement authorities in recent years.

“The market of ecstasy in the region has evolved significantly and has become more complex over time,” the report says.

“Currently, ecstasy is available in two main forms; as tablets containing varying doses of MDMA, ranging from no MDMA at all to high doses, and as powder or in crystalline form.

“Both forms of presentation often contain substances other than MDMA, including NPS with stimulant effects.”

Looking at the emergence of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean, UNODC said 14 countries in the region have reported the presence of 178 different synthetic drugs belonging to a diverse range of chemical groups over the course of the past decade.

In 2017, more than 60 different NPS were reported to UNODC by nine countries in the region, highlighting the emergence of a trend that the agency said presents a serious threat to public health and challenges for policy makers and law enforcement authorities there.

At the end of last week, UNODC announced that it had donated an on-site drug testing device to law enforcement agencies in Jamaica to help counter the threat of NPS in Latin America and the Caribbean.

After being presented with the device, Cheryl Spencer, UN Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Jamaica, said: “Jamaica regards this support to the country through this device as not only a tangible demonstration of international cooperation but also as technology transfer, elements which are critical to the development of small developing countries like Jamaica.”

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Methamphetamine production hits record high across East and Southeast Asian countries, UNODC cautions

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methamphetamine production hits record high

Production of methamphetamine has rocketed in East and Southeast Asia over the course of the past year, according to a new report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The study reveals that annual seizures of methamphetamine in countries in the region other than China reached record highs in 2018, while street prices dropped significantly – a trend that analysts say indicates increasing availability of the drug.

Methamphetamine has now become the primary drug of concern in 12 out of 13 East and Southeast Asian nations, UNODC said, up from five 10 years ago.

The sole exception is Vietnam, where heroin remains the most worrying drug in terms of usage and damage caused.

In 2017, total seizures of methamphetamine across the region rose to a record 82 tons, with projected figures for last year indicating a further substantial increase to 116 tons.

Some 515 million methamphetamine pills were seized in Thailand alone last year, which represented a 17-fold increase over the total amount of the drug confiscated in the country a decade ago.

According to the report, organised crime networks in the region have been becoming increasingly involved in the production and distribution of methamphetamine and other drugs over recent years, while methamphetamine-related addiction cases have come to account for the majority of all drug-related treatment admissions in East and Southeast Asian countries.

The study also found that a wide range of new psychoactive substances (NPS) have emerged in the region, including deadly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

As of last year, a total of 434 NPS had been detected in the region, making these drugs “a significant challenge for national authorities and people in the region”.

Elsewhere, UNODC observed that annual seizures of ketamine have been in decline since 2015, thanks in the most part to falling levels of production in China.

Niyom Termsrisuk, Secretary General of the Office of Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) of Thailand, commented: “Volumes of methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs originating from the Golden Triangle to Thailand have reached unprecedented levels.

“Large amounts of synthetic drugs have been trafficked to neighbouring countries in the region, but also further. The challenge is growing, and it is critical we work with UNODC and the region to curtail flows of precursor chemicals that are being used to produce methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs.

“We will be discussing solutions with regional leaders when we host the Mekong MOU on Drug Control Ministerial Meeting in June of this year.”

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Cocaine estimated to be worth $77 million seized from shipping container at Port of New York

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cocaine estimated to be worth $77 million

A group of US law enforcement agencies have seized more than 1.45 tonnes of cocaine with an estimated street value of some $77 million from a shipping container passing through the Port of New York.

In a joint operation, officers from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the US Coast Guard (USCG), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the New York Police Department (NYPD) and the New York State Police (NYSP) found 60 packages after searching the container.

Each contained white powder that tests later proved was cocaine.

The seizure is said to be the second-largest discovery of the drug at the port in its history, and is thought to be the biggest found there in almost a quarter of a century.

Investigators said the container was examined by inspectors after it arrived on a boat from South America.

Brian Michael, Special Agent in Charge from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Newark, commented: “Transnational criminal organisations rely upon illicit networks throughout the world to supply, transport, and distribute cocaine and other dangerous drugs.

“HSI’s Border Enforcement Security Task Force in Newark, comprised of CBP, Waterfront Commission of NY Harbor Police, Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, Port Authority Police Department, and Dover Police Department working together, strengthened by HSI’s international partnerships and DHS’s combined assets, play a critical role in disrupting the worldwide cocaine chain.”

DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan said the size of the seizure proves that traffickers are attempting to capitalise on the growing trend of drug users mixing cocaine with fentanyl, suggesting that the amount of cocaine being discovered in New York is approaching levels seen back in the 1990s.

Last month, a baggage handler at Newark International Airport was found guilty of smuggling large quantities of cocaine into the country at the end of a trial at Manhattan Federal Court.

Tyrone Woolaston was convicted of exploiting his position to smuggle at least 5kgs of the drug through the airport during a conspiracy that is thought to have lasted a number of years before he was caught.

Woolaston’s plot was discovered when police watched him pick up a case containing fake cocaine that had arrived on a flight from the Cayman Islands.

He was arrested the following day while attempting to deliver the bogus drugs to a source, at which time he was found to be illegally in the possession of a handgun.

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