The number of people being hospitalised after smoking Spice, weed and other strains of cannabis has more than doubled since the start of the decade.
The figures – released by NHS Digital – show that there were around 345 cannabis or Spice-related hospital admissions in the Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group area in 2018/19.
Cases include people admitted with mental and behavioural disorders due to use of the drugs, as well as people suffering other adverse effects.
The NHS said that figures are rounded to the nearest five to “protect patient confidentiality”.
However, they show a slight increase in admissions compared to 2017/18 – when there were an estimated 325 cases – and mark the highest total since 2010-11 when 162 cases were recorded.
The figures also include secondary diagnoses – meaning cases when the drug wasn’t the main reason the patient was in the hospital, but still had an affect on their treatment.
What is Spice?
Spice is a mix of herbs and laboratory-made chemicals with mind-altering effects.
It has been called the 'zombie’ drug as it leaves users in a zombie-like state.
Like cannabis, Spice can make users feel happy and relaxed, but the effects are much stronger and often unpredictable.
Users recall experiences of feeling brain-dead and paralysed, with numerous reports of people having sometimes fatal heart attacks and strokes.
Cases have also been reported of kidney damage, liver damage and psychosis.
Is it legal?
An amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in 2017 means that forms of synthetic cannabis are now deemed a Class B controlled drug.
This includes popular substances such as Spice and the the infamous Black Mamba drug.
Before the change, only the production and supply of these drugs was illegal, but being in possession of them was not.
But it is now deemed a criminal offence, leaving users at risk of prosecution.
’Highly dangerous toxic drugs’
Peter Reynolds, president of CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, said: “The figures don’t differentiate between cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids – in other words spice.
“As we all know the harms and incidents around spice are massive compared to cannabis.
„It’s actually dozens of highly dangerous toxic drugs which can cause severe health problems – which cannabis simply doesn’t.
“The only reason that spice has become popular is because when it was initially available it wasn’t illegal, and cannabis was.
“The root cause of all of this is the prohibition of cannabis. Our insane drugs policy that takes a substance 114 times less dangerous than alcohol, criminalises people who uses it, and funds a six billions pound criminal market from which all sorts of other consequential much nastier harms flow.
“I’m not saying cannabis is harmless – certainly children shouldn’t be using it – however the difference between having three pints a night or a bit of cannabis is the difference between tiddlywinks and base jumping.”
Across England as a whole, people were admitted to hospital 33,364 times last year because of cannabinoids.
That’s up by six per cent on the figure for 2017/18 – and is the highest figure recorded since at least 2007/08, when only 5,934 cases were recorded.
The figure has increased every year since then.
The NHS said that apparent increases in activity may be due to improved recording of diagnosis or procedure information.
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