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Dangers of synthetic cannabis
A recent incident reported in The Guardian highlights the dangers of so-called ‘legal highs’ from synthetic cannabis and shows a disturbing impact that has even entered the daily lives of prison inmates. The ‘legality’ of synthetic cannabis will soon come to an end. From the 26th of May 2016, synthetic cannabis will no longer be a legal high in prisons, but they are also causing concern in civil society.
Family shocked by violent video
The situation regarding the use and abuse of synthetic cannabis in prisons was brought to light in a Snapchat video which highlighted the violent abuses which occur behind bars as a result of trade in this so-called “legal” substance. The family off 38-year-old Sam Johnson were traumatized after being sent a Snapchat video of him being beaten up by fellow inmates in a Dorset prison in the UK. His sister was threatened and told that further videos would follow. The family claim the incident was never reported.
The dangers of these ultra-strong THC simulacrums have been further underlined by the 19 synthetic cannabinoid related deaths in UK prisons between 2012 and 2014. The molecules differ from those found naturally, and are far more likely to have dangerous side-effects. Because these cannabinoid products are so strong, several times stronger than herbal cannabis, overdoses are on the rise, and ambulances are frequently summoned to deal with the consequences.
The synthetic cannabinoids are manufactured in the Far East and differ from natural cannabis in both structure and strength. They also do not show up in drug tests, have no smell and are cheaper than natural THC, which contributes to their popularity within the prison system. However, the effects are more intense and also far less predictable.
According to The Guardian, prisoners are now calling ambulances ‘mambulances’ after ‘Black Mamba’ one of the most popular synthetic cannabis drugs currently available. Symptoms of overdose include stupor, hallucinations, delirium and dehydration as well as breathing difficulties and loss of limb control.
Increase in violent incidents
According to sources cited by the Guardian, UK prisons have seen a 55% increase in violence in recent years, and this is being attributed to synthetic cannabinoid use which prison authorities say are making prisons ‘ungovernable’.
Prisoners report that users become highly unpredictable and violent whilst under the influence of synthetic cannabinoids marketed as ‘Black Mamba’ or ‘Spice’. In addition, dealers of these drugs often resort to extortion and violence, both inside and outside the prison system when money is owed.
Authorities seek solutions
The problem is widespread in UK prisons, with inmates from various prisons reporting that the drugs are freely available and that their effects on users are very unpleasant. Prison authorities have committed to rooting out the problem, but are faced with difficulties created by the fact that the drugs are difficult to detect and can easily be smuggled in by corrupt staff members or prisoners entering prison after being on bail.
Outside of prisons, the impact of synthetic cannabis is causing serious concern as teenagers are easily able to obtain and use the drugs with similar consequences to those observed among prison inmates.