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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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Colombian drug gang kingpin charged with multi-million dollar cocaine plot after extradition to US

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Colombian drug gang kingpin charged with multi-million dollar cocaine plot

Prosecutors in California have charged a senior Colombian drug gang boss with shipping cocaine estimated to be worth hundreds of millions dollars from South America to Mexico ready to be sold across the border in the US.

Victor Hugo Cuellar-Silva, who was extradited to America from Colombia after an international police operation resulted in his arrest, is said to have been a high-profile member of a brutal trafficking cartel that used aircrafts, boats and submarines to smuggle drugs to be sold on the US market.

Seven other gang members who played a role in smuggling huge quantities of cocaine manufactured in South American labs to the US/Mexico border were also arrested in California and Massachusetts, after investigators discovered significant amounts of the drug were being delivered to the Los Angeles area by the trafficking network for onward sale.

Prosecutors are now attempting to extradite another six alleged members of the cartel after they were arrested in Colombia and Thailand.

Cuellar-Silva is thought to have been a senior member of a drug smuggling network run by fugitive Mexican cocaine kingpin Angel Humberto Chavez-Gastelum, one of the most-wanted drug traffickers on the planet.

Commenting on the extradition of Cuellar-Silva, United States Attorney Nick Hanna said: “This drug ring has spread death and misery across the Americas and to other parts of the world, which makes this case among the most significant drug trafficking cases ever brought in this district.

“We are deeply grateful to the government of Colombia for helping us bring one of the key defendants to justice.

“Prosecutors in my office are united with our domestic and foreign partners in the fight against drug trafficking.

“This case shows that law enforcement will apply all of its resources to dismantle international criminal organisations that terrorise communities both here and abroad.”

A three-year probe into the network resulted in the seizure of several tonnes of cocaine – along with significant quantities of methamphetamine, firearms and tens of thousands of dollars in cash – during a series of raids in multiple locations.

Joseph Macias, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, said: “This extradition serves as a stern warning to other fugitives who think they can evade US law enforcement by hiding out in another country.

“I commend the government of Colombia and all of our foreign and domestic law enforcement partners for their hard work.”

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US teens taken to hospital after boy brings cocaine-filled balloons to school

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cocaine-filled balloons

More than a dozen US teenagers were forced to seek medical attention on Friday after a 13-year-old student at their California school took balloons filled with cocaine into class.

A number of students found the deflated balloons lying in the playground at the Carl F Smith Middle School in Terra Bella, and raised the alarm when some of them began to feel disorientated after coming into contact with a white powder contained inside them.

School workers initially assumed the powdery substance inside the balloons to be flour, but called police as a precaution.

When officers arrived at the scene to investigate, they determined the powder was in fact cocaine.

In total, 13 children were thought to have come into contact with the balloons, but all tested negative for cocaine.

Police officers who attended the school with a sniffer dog were able to identify a 13-year-old boy as the source of the drugs, after their canine detected cocaine on his shorts.

“Around 8:40 a.m. September 14, two students at Carl F Smith Middle school in Terra Bella found what appeared to be two balloons on the playground of the school grounds,” local police said in a statement.

“The deflated balloons, similar to drug bindle packaging, had a white powdery substance inside and outside the packaging. The students immediately notified school staff, who called the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office. The Department responded immediately with multiple resources.”

Investigators obtained a warrant to search the boy’s home, which was identified as the source of the cocaine-packed balloons.

Parents are said to have flocked to the school as news of the incident spread on social media, with some voicing concern for their children’s wellbeing.

“I’m very concerned for my daughter’s safety at school after today,” one mother told the Visalia Times Delta, noting she had heard reports of students smoking cannabis at the institution.

“The school should give more attention to the kids. This is scary.”

Detectives said on Friday that the boy suspected of bringing the drugs into school was still being questioned by investigators.

Classes at the school continued after police were able to confirm the site had been cleared of drugs.

“Our greatest concern is for the safety of our children,” the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said.

“The Sheriff has made phone calls to the Superintendent and the Principal to reassure them that the Department is committed to making sure students are safe both in and out of school.”

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‘British FBI’ seizes $35 million cocaine and heroin haul hidden in fruit shipment

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cocaine and heroin haul

Officers from the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) have seized cocaine and heroin with an estimated street value of £27 million ($35 million) that they found concealed hidden inside a truckload of vegetables at a port.

The discovery of the huge shipment of drugs, which weighed 400kgs and was found hidden in a consignment of tomatoes and onions, led to the arrest of a 45-year-old Romanian man, who was charged with attempting to import class A drugs and released on bail while police continue their investigations.

In a statement, the NCA said that the man and his lorry arrived at Killingholme Port in north Lincolnshire on Wednesday morning having travelled on a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

Commenting on the discovery, NCA Branch Commander Jayne Lloyd said: “The seizure of this significant amount of controlled drugs supports our mission to protect the public from harm. We will continue to work with law-enforcement partners to detect and disrupt criminal activity.”

Liz Versi, Director at Border Force North, which assisted the NCA during the operation, said: “This was a substantial seizure and demonstrates the vital work Border Force officers are doing to take class-A drugs out of circulation.”

Traffickers routinely attempt to sneak drugs hidden in shipments of fruit past customs officers, partly on account of the fact that perishable products are often fast-tracked through border checks due to their short shelf life.

At the end of last month, Spanish police announced they had found 67kgs of cocaine that had been skilfully concealed inside multiple hollowed-out pineapple skins.

The smuggling gang behind the plot had carefully removed the flesh from each fruit casing, refilling them with plastic cylinders containing up to 7kgs of cocaine.

Back in April, police in Spain seized nearly nine tonnes of cocaine estimated to be worth more than €285 million ($350 million) that was hidden inside 1,000 boxes of bananas that had been shipped into the country from Colombia.

The UK seizure was the second major drugs discovery in Britain in less than two weeks. At the end of August, five men were arrested after NCA officers found a “significant quantity of cocaine” on a boat that was intercepted just off the coast of Cornwall.

British nationals Nigel Clark and Dean Waters, boat skipper Richard Must from Estonia, and crew members Voldemars Gailis from Latvia and Raymond Dijkstra from the Netherlands are next due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on 4 October.

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