Spice related hospital admissions in Sheffield fall

Sheffield’s ‘compassionate’ strategy to combat the so-called ‘zombie drug’ Spice is having a positive effect, new figures suggest.

Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 1:08 pm
Bag of Spice.

Figures provided by NHS Digital show hospital admissions related to cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids in Sheffield have fallen from 318 three years ago to 135 last year.

In Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley the problem has grown considerably, however, with far more people presenting at hospital having taken cannabinoid type substances last year than in previous years.

In Doncaster alone, 310 people reported at hospital having taken cannabis or something like it, more than double the Sheffield figure, while in Rotherham and Barnsley, the figure was 235 and 135 respectively.

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Regionally, there were 815 cannabinoid related hospital admissions in 2018-19 in South Yorkshire, compared to 780 the year before.

Helen Jackson-Phillips, Sheffield Council’s strategic commissioning manager for drugs and alcohol said a training programme for more than 400 key workers had been important, as had outreach work in areas of high use.

Police had also increased patrols in Sheffield, targetting dealers rather than vulnerable users, and a dedicated city centre Spice clinic opened in July 2018 had already treated 500 people, she added.

She said: “We are aware that cannabinoid related hospital admissions in Sheffield have reduced in the past year, which is very positive for the city.

Spice users in Sheffield city centre.

“We, in partnership with a number of other agencies in the city, have worked very hard to address the harms caused to individuals and communities by Spice use, including reducing the necessity for emergency ambulance call-outs and hospital admissions.

“We have worked hard to provide a compassionate and comprehensive partnership response to Spice use in Sheffield, and are pleased that the impact of this work is being reflected through reduced hospital admissions.”

Spice is a synthetic drug which mimics the effect of cannabis and can be bought for as little as £5.

It was formerly a so-called ‘legal high’, but was recriminalised as a Class B drug in 2016.

Sid Wiffen chats to one of the service users in the Sheffield Spice Clinic

In recent years it has been blamed for a rise in anti-social behaviour in towns and cities across the country, with users often seen unconscious or in a catatonic state.