MANCHESTER is in a legal high epidemic, according to a leading Manchester based homeless charity.

Julie Boyle, who works full time at Lifeshare, a charity supporting Manchester’s vulnerable and homeless, said: “We are in a legal high epidemic, especially amongst the homeless community.

“The use of spice is horrendous, it’s the worst thing to have ever hit the homeless community.”

Legal highs have been a concern in Manchester after statistics revealed that there has been a 10-fold increase in police call-outs to incidents involving legal highs since 2013.

homeless pic at St Anns Square
Homeless camp at St Anns Square © Copyright Matt Harrop under Creative Commons

Julie said: “We’ve had incidents where a lad was raped under the influence of legal highs, we’ve also had a 22-year-old man who had a heart attack because of it,

“And another man who had second degree heart failure from smoking mamba (a type of legal high) and now he’s on medication for life.”

Legal highs contain one or more chemical substances which produce effects similar to illegal drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy.

They can be purchased for as little as £5 a gram and are sold in various newsagents and emporiums across Manchester.

It’s illegal to sell them for human consumption, so they are marketed as incense, salt or plant food to get around the law and are sold under names such as ‘hipster’, ‘pandoras box’ and ‘mambo’. Then users smoke the substance either in a pipe or rolled in rizla paper.

Although these substances are not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 they can be more dangerous than illegal drugs.

This is because the chemical components in them and their physical and mental side effects are unknown.

LISTEN: Julie Boyle on legal highs

Julie said: “Even though the ingredients are on the back of the packets the paramedics are unsure of what the chemical compositions of all these ingredients actually are, which makes it incredibly hard for users to be,

“If the government manage to ban one type of legal high, then the manufacturers simply change the chemical composition and it goes straight back on the streets and in the shops.

Lifeshare aims to help the vulnerable and homeless people in Manchester by offering them advice and guidance, Julie estimates that out of the 120 clients aged 16-25 that they see regularly 95 per cent of them are using legal highs.

She added: “On the enforcement side of it I think that the shops should be doing what they are supposed to be doing and shops found selling it to those smoking it should be closed. The enforcement needs to be tougher.

“The problem with legal highs are that there’s so much rubbish in it it’s out of control and they are so easy to get hold of.”

Local Labour Councillor Eddy Newman wants legal highs to be banned, he said: “We should not be sending any message out other than saying to people that use of these mind altering drugs is something that’s damaging to them and society.”

For help and advice for anything mentioned above please visit the Talk to Frank website or in an emergency call 999.

By: Sophie Flint

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