A DEADLY drug which is having a “devastating impact” on homeless addicts is being sold under the counter by some shops in Camden Town, it can be revealed.
Outreach workers, employed to help rough-sleepers off the streets, told the New Journal that paramedics have been inundated with calls about people who have collapsed or suffered from psychotic episodes after smoking the synthetic cannabis – which is known to users as “spice”.
Manufactured commercially in east Asia, it is one of the so-called “legal highs” that had until recently been sold openly at dozens of shops.
It was removed from shelves at the end of last year following a crackdown by Camden Council on the sale of the drug – which is labelled as “not fit for human consumption” but overtly marketed under various synonyms for cannabis.
However, users have told both the New Journal and healthcare professionals that it is still readily available under the counter in some shops in NW1. Camden Council accepted this week that it continues to be sold by “persistent retailers who are making a significant profit”.
He added: “We are seeing class-A drug users, who have been injecting heroin and crack for many years, turning to this stuff. It’s very cheap, it’s very available and you don’t get nicked if you’ve got it. But it’s highly addictive and the impact it’s having is devastating. People are having psychotic episodes or blacking out, collapsing in the street.”
The dangerous ‘Spice’ drugs
One rough sleeper told the New Journal that he believed “spice” was responsible for the deaths of two homeless men in Camden Town in the past four months.
He said: “I’ve tried every drug in this world, but spice is the worst. You’re honestly better off taking heroin.”
Mr Bangay said that, while he did not know the detailed cause of death in both cases, he would “not be at all surprised if it was a factor”, adding: “The risk-taking behaviour, the aggression that comes out from using this stuff, has all got to be a factor in what happens to people. It’s just so strong.”
A homeless man was found collapsed near Mornington Crescent tube station on Tuesday last week and later died at the Royal Free Hospital of a suspected heart attack. In September, rough sleeper Enda Murray died after collapsing on the steps of a club near Camden Town tube station. The cause of death in both cases remains unknown and inquests are scheduled to take place.
The New Journal was repeatedly turned away by shopkeepers when attempting to buy the drug this week, which has been linked to more than a dozen deaths in the UK, but Mr Bangay said dealers are still buying it directly from shops or online – where it is marketed as a “research chemical” or plant fertiliser.
He said: “It’s much less of an issue than it was for the casual user. For the young kid coming into Camden Town it’s harder to get, which is a great thing. But it’s just as prolific as it was among rough sleepers. As long as there are outlets that are selling it, even under the counter, then it will still be around.”
Council community safety chief, Councillor Jonathan Simpson, said: “The council is very concerned about the availability of these products and has been carrying out focused work to ensure increased public safety. Our focus will remain on continuing to reduce their availability throughout the borough.’’