Three people have died after they are thought to have taken a “dangerous or toxic” batch of the hallucinogenic and highly addictive drug Spice.
A warning was issued after the deaths in Newcastle – all within 24 hours – were believed to be linked to the same drug, though the type or ‘brand’ of Spice was not known.
The North East is the drug death capital of England, according to official figures.
The Spice-related deaths occurred in Newcastle on Friday and Saturday, the local council said as it warned that a “particularly dangerous or toxic batch” is likely circulating in the city, ChronicleLive reports.
Newcastle City Council has urged people not to take Spice or any other illicit drugs because they “are variable in quality and purity”, meaning users “never know” what they are really taking.
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Mind-altering Spice, a range of substances containing one or more synthetic cannabinoids, turns users into a zombie-like state and has been a scourge in some city centres.
Experts have said abuse of the man-made Class B drug, which was made illegal in 2017, has reached epidemic levels in the UK.
Its effects are often much stronger than cannabis, leaving users unable to move or with breathing difficulties, heart palpitations or extreme anxiety.
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The drug is also known to cause seizures, and the risks of harmful effects increase when it is used with other drugs or alcohol.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: "We have been informed about three deaths in the past 24 hours in Newcastle that appear to be linked to spice use.
"Although we are not aware of the type or 'brand', it is likely that there is a particularly dangerous or toxic batch in circulation.
"No drugs are safe and we advise people not to use substances and not to use spice.
“These drugs are variable in quality and purity so you can never know what you are using and the effect of mixing with other drugs or alcohol.
"If you are affected by drugs or alcohol there is help available.
“This includes support for family members.”
The North East is the drug death capital of England, with a rate that is almost twice the national average, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The region had 679 drug-related deaths between 2017 and 2019 for a rate of 9.1 per 100,000 people.
In October last year, three university students in Newcastle and an 18-year-old man in Washington, Tyne and Wear, died in suspected drugs-related incidents in less than 48 hours.
In Northern Ireland, a number of young people recently ended up in hospital after unwittingly vaping Spice.
They thought they had purchased cannabis oil, the Public Health Agency said in a warning issued before Easter.
Spice has also been a problem in UK prisons.
In March, the Government announced that prison drug dogs will be trained to sniff out Spice.
Changes to the chemical make-up of the drug can make it tougher for dogs to find.
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