[The Guardian] Dr Henry Fisher - Spice is a terrifying drug, but panic won’t make it go away
Its effects include seizures, near-catatonic trips – and death. Rather than demonising users, we should look at why they are driven to take the drug
2017 has its drug scare du jour. An epidemic of spice use is wreaking havoc among homeless and prison communities and the services that support them, and no one quite knows what to do about it.
First, let’s get one thing clear. We have not opened a psychopharmacological portal to the underworld. Legions of the flesh-eating undead are not roaming our streets, whatever some newspaper and TV outlets might suggest. In labelling people using spice as zombies, the media have allowed us to forget that these are vulnerable people, who are using a terrifyingly obliviating substance to escape an unbearably boring, painful or depressing reality. They are not extras from a horror movie, but people who need support.
"For someone looking to pass a seemingly endless prison sentence with nothing to do, the drug's appeal becomes obvious"
Spice is actually a collection of substances called synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists (SCRAs), originally designed to mimic cannabis, but found to be far more potent, with a raft of additional, unexpected effects not seen with cannabis, including seizures, numbing, near-catatonic trips lasting hours, significant harm to users’ physical and mental health, and potentially even death. Effects can be deeply confusing, terrifying, numbing and sedating. However, for someone looking to pass a seemingly endless prison sentence with nothing to do, or a freezing night on the streets with no prospect of meaningful employment or guarantee of personal safety, the appeal becomes obvious.