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Street drugs in Wales more 'toxic and potent' warning

Street drugs like 'Spice' and 'Mamba' are becoming more potent. Credit: PA

Illegal drugs being sold in Wales are more toxic, potent and harmful to users than ever warns a report out today by Public Health Wales.

Tests on street drugs reveal a rise in "ultra potent" synthetic cannabis type drugs like 'Spice' which has led to a rise in users being taken to hospital.

Cocaine remains the most commonly identified substance being used in Wales but more people are using different types of benzodiazepines such as Valium, and fentanyls, a synthetic opioid and painkiller.

WEDINOS, a Public Health Wales initiative allowing for the anonymous testing of drugs, says there are fewer substances being tried but the strength of them is growing.

More: Spice: The 'zombie' drug causing chaos on our streets

More people are dying from synthetic drugs. Credit: ITV News

The harms, including hospitalisations and deaths, is rising. We are also seeing an increase in the strength of other more traditional drugs including MDMA and cocaine and this presents a challenge for services.

– Dean Acreman, Project Manager for WEDINOS

The increase in stronger and more toxic synthetic cannabinoids, known as 'Spice' or 'Mamba', are associated with deaths and poisonings across Europe.

Public Health Wales says while the number of deaths associated with new psychoactive substances (NPS) remains a fraction of those resulting from heroin and other opiates, there has been an increase in deaths to 123 people dying in England and Wales in 2016.

It has never been so important to encourage all individuals using or considering using drugs to be well informed, aware of what they may be taking and of ways to reduce harm to themselves and others.

New psychoactive substances coming onto the market in Wales and across Europe pose a number of threats, with users at risk of acute harms which are well evidenced in this report.

The long-term risks associated with these drugs are currently unknown.

– Josie Smith, Programme and National Lead for Substance Misuse at Public Health Wales

Neath Port Talbot and Swansea are currently the hotspots for drug related deaths in Wales.

According to the National office for Statistics these are the 10 local authorities with the highest mortality rate in 2014-16 from drug misuse:

  • 1 Blackpool: 20.1
  • 2 Neath Port Talbot: 11.6
  • 3 Burnley: 11.3
  • 4 Middlesbrough: 11.0
  • 5 Hartlepool: 10.1
  • 6 Gosport : 10.0
  • 7 Barrow-in-Furness: 9.9
  • = Torridge: 9.9
  • 9 Hastings: 9.8
  • 10 Swansea: 9.7

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Those seeking to receive support for drug or alcohol related concerns can contact the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline on freephone 0808 808 2234, by texting DAN to: 81066 or by visiting dan247.org.uk

More information on WEDINOS is available at www.wedinos.org