Warning over unknown ingredients and risk to health of synthetic drugs

Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY


Police have warned of the unpredictable effects and unknown ingredients of synthetic drugs known as new psychoactive substances (NPS).

The new generation of synthetic drugs can be more powerful than the conventional illegal substances they mimic.

Recent experimental Home Office figures showed year-on-year comparisons in the number of NPS, formerly referred to as 'legal highs', seized by police forces.

Nationally, there were 2,973 seizures in 2018/19 - up a quarter from 2017/18 (2,386). In Suffolk, the number went from 75 to 84.

As well as nitrous oxide, NPS include newly available synthetic powders and cannabinoids that mimic the effect of drugs like cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.

Some are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act, while others are illegal to supply, produce and import under the Psychoactive Substances Act.

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Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Bridger said: "Whilst the increase in seizures is small in number, we will continue to monitor the figures closely over the months ahead.

"Our greatest concern is that anyone taking them does not know what they contain - in some cases they have been linked to hospital admissions and deaths."

Overall, Suffolk made slightly fewer total drug seizures year-on-year - down 9% from 3,045 to 2,770.

Almost 60% (1,628) were cannabis - including 30kg of herbal cannabis and 714 plants.

DCS Bridger said: "In terms of cannabis seizures, these are frequently connected to other types of criminality such as road traffic offences, possession of offensive weapons and a wide variety of other criminality."

Suffolk police have invested in three new proactive Sentinel teams to tackle serious and organised crime, while serious crime disruption teams, Operation Scorpion teams and local officers conduct regular intelligence led operations linked to drug trafficking.

DCS Bridger said the force continued to prioritise harm caused by trafficking, but that enforcement will not be enough to make reductions in harm caused by a demand driven, complex social problem requiring input and action by other partners.

He added: "By effectively utilising the intelligence gathered and our trained professionals, we will ensure the county remains a hostile environment for those involved in the supply of drugs."

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