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Dedicated clinic for users of 'zombie drug' spice being launched in Sheffield

A spice user left in a zombie-like state by the drug on Chapel Walk, in Sheffield city centre, this week
A spice user left in a zombie-like state by the drug on Chapel Walk, in Sheffield city centre, this week
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A dedicated spice clinic is being launched in Sheffield as part of efforts to get a grip on the 'zombie drug'.

The new walk-in clinic, due to open in July, is part of a wider action plan by Sheffield Council to tackle the alarming impact of the illicit substance.

Spice is a highly addictive drug, which was made illegal in 2016

Spice is a highly addictive drug, which was made illegal in 2016

The additional measures are being taken in response to growing sightings around the city centre of people rendered unconscious or in a trance-like state after taking spice, leading to the 'zombie drug' nickname.

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As well as the new clinic, around 200 people across Sheffield dealing with spice users - from housing officers to police and ambulance workers - will get training to support them and a guide is being published about what to do if you see someone under the influence.

The council is also working with police to help tackle spice dealers operating in the city centre and wants to raise awareness among the general public about what to do if they encounter someone on the streets who is incapacitated.

Helen Phillips-Jackson, the council's strategic commissioning manager for substance misuse, said although the issue of spice abuse was a very visible one it was restricted to a relatively small number of vulnerable people, many of whom are homeless.

Anybody seeing someone on spice and in need of help should dial 999

Anybody seeing someone on spice and in need of help should dial 999

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She said the council had spent two months working with partners including homelessness charity the Cathedral Archer Project, police and city centre businesses, as well as consulting spice users, to draw up the new strategy.

"We understand how distressing and difficult an issue this is, and we're striving to work in partnership to support professionals, members of the public and spice users themselves," she said.

"Substance abuse is very complex. It's not something that's easily solved, and we hope people will work with us to respond in a compassionate and respectful way."

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"If members of the public do see someone in distress or difficulty they should always dial 999 and follow the advice from the operator."

The new clinic will open for half a day a week, offering one-to-one support, with the location and precise hours yet to be decided.

Spice users can already seek help at the existing walk-in clinic for non-opiate drug users on Sidney Street, in the city centre, which will continue to serve them after July.

Spice is a synthetic cannabinoid which was part of a range of psychoactive substances, formally known as legal highs, to be made illegal two years ago.

Ms Phillips-Jackson said criminalising the drug, which was previously available in shops, had given rise to a number of drug dealers in Sheffield city centre. But she claimed it was no different to other city centres in this respect.

Councillor Chris Peace, cabinet member for health and social care at Sheffield Council, said the council was working with the ambulance service, police, homeless services and hostels, and the community safety partnership to address the impact of the 'dangerous and highly addictive' drug.

"Our aim is to have a city-wide response to working with spice users in Sheffield in terms of harm reduction, treatment and enforcement," she added.

* Anyone affected by spice can call the Sheffield Drugs and Alcohol Co-ordination Team on 0114 272 1481. They can also visit the drop-in clinic at 44 Sidney Street, which is open from 9am-5pm on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 9am-7pm on Wednesdays.