A WREXHAM police chief has urged parents to keep youngsters away from so-called legal highs at all costs.
Town centre inspector Paul Wycherley spoke of the dangers of new psychoactive substances, which have made their way into Wrexham in recent months.
Speaking to the Leader, he underlined the battle the authorities face in dealing with their effects on the health of users and the public.
“We are very aware of the product circulating in the Wrexham area, but it is not unique to us as it is also common in a number of cities in northern England,” Insp Wycherley said.
“Unfortunately, they seem to mutate.
“As recently as February 25 we were dealing with a strain of these substances which gave users instant psychotic experiences, but there has also been a recent strain which has given people immense strength in the 20 minutes or so after taking them.
“The effects of these products are concerning in that they send people into a zombie-like state which users tell us lasts between 20 minutes to half-an-hour.
“They are highly addictive and some users experienced in other very addictive drugs tell us that the hallucogenic effects of these substances are enhanced.
“Users have told us they hate being on it, but they can’t get off it – they are hooked very, very quickly.”
Insp Wycherley said the drugs were dangerously addictive with the long-term effects unknown, on top of the short-term health risks.
“A number of shops used to sell these so-called legal highs before they became illegal and that has maybe created the impression they are still legal,” he said.
“I cannot over-emphasise it enough – they are not legal to sell.
“It is now an offence to retail or supply these drugs.
“Our difficulty comes that even when we get these substances analysed forensically, scientists can’t always tell us the exact chemical make-up. It creates a massive psychotic effect and the public are understandably very worried.
“We’re working tightly with Wrexham Council to come up with a plan, and working closely with third-party agencies specialising in helping those with addictions.
“We are having to seek expertise from other places – recently we had sergeants visiting Manchester, where it is quite prevalent, to see how the problem is dealt with there.
“We need to improve our intelligence of where these products are coming from and disrupt the supply.
“The message I want to send out, particularly to parents is to tell their children to stay away from it, do not touch it.
“Even medical experts treating users are having to try and keep up – we don’t know what their long-term effects are, or where we will be in five years’ time with this sort of drug.
“I cannot stress enough the message to parents to keep their children away from these substances, and for teenagers who might be tempted not to take them.”
l Inspector Wycherley also warned ‘vigilantes’ not to take matters into their own hands.
He said: “We are aware of vigilante patrols around the bus station area, people taking pictures and posting them to social media.
“It is not helping – there are genuine homeless people being picked on as a result of this, but not all drug users are homeless.
“There are many homeless people who have never heard of these drugs in their lives and it is not helping their situation.
“Many of these substance users are not homeless, but go to these areas to take drugs. Homelessness and drug use is not one and the same.”
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