Sun, sand and Spice: Life in the British resort plagued by wave of drugs which turn people into 'zombies'

Fun-seekers to Britain’s most popular seaside resort will be in for a shock.

Blackpool has been hit by a terrifying wave of drug taking that can turn users into zombie-like figures.

The Sunday People has discovered the formerly legal high known as Spice is on sale for just £10 a gram.

The shocking revelation comes just days after disturbing pictures of users collapsed in the street and asleep in a plant pot were published.

Dubbed green heroin for its corrosive impact on addicts, Spice can cause ­seizures, blackouts and even death.

A homeless man who claimed he could supply us the drug Spice
(Photo: Peter Powell)

Experts say some forms of the drug, sold legally on high streets until last April, can be 100 times more powerful than the cannabis it mimics.

Some believe ­banning the synthetic cannabinoids and sending it underground into the hands of street pushers has made the drug even more dangerous.

In Blackpool we found it was no more difficult to get hold of than a postcard or a stick of rock. A man sleeping rough in a doorway, who gave his name as Lee, rolled a ­cigarette and said he could easily source some for a tenner.

A block of flats where a homeless man claimed he could get us the drug spice
(Photo: Peter Powell)

He then set off to a neat apartment block, near the town’s job centre, and five minutes later returned with a pack of Spice in a clear plastic bag.

Lee, in his mid 20s, turned to drugs after splitting up with his girlfriend and ending up on the streets.

He has been smoking Spice for two years but wishes he had never started.

He said: “It’s addictive, man. It just gets you. It’s really cheap. I can get it easy enough. I’ve seen people get nasty on it.

“People used to get it from the head shops and smoke it that way. But it’s just as easy to get now.

“I started smoking it ­because it just chilled me out. Helped me crash. But you just keep wanting more. Nearly all the people on the street around here take it. It’s strong stuff.

A bag of Spice which was supplied by a homeless man in Blackpool
(Photo: Peter Powell)

“I used to smoke weed but this stuff is ten times stronger than that.

“I wish I could stop but it’s powerful stuff. Just about all the homeless people around here take it.”

Spice first appeared on the streets two years ago but has been outlawed as a class B drug with a maximum five years’ jail for possession.

Last year the death of homeless Nicholas Williamson, 34, was reportedly linked to Spice. Nicholas, of North London, was found dead near Trafalgar Square. He had been trying to quit the drug but said the withdrawal made him “feel like killing people”.

In Manchester, where Spice users were dubbed the Walking Dead after last week’s pictures, we were shown how to buy the drug within minutes of our ­arrival at the city centre’s Piccadilly Gardens.

We were swiftly ­pointed to two ­locations where we could buy plastic wraps of the drug. Dealers gathered in small gangs in certain areas around the city, with “spotters” ­watching to warn of approaching police or other potential problems.

Scenes in Manchester
(Photo: Andy Kelvin/Daily Mail)

And in Bristol one man said he could get hold of Spice in just 40 seconds.

The drug was readily ­available in the notorious Bearpit area where one rough sleeper estimated 80 per cent of the homeless take it. Chris Marshall, 41, said: “Pull out a tenner and I will get you a bag in 40 seconds.”

After a quick phone call he produced a £10 bag saying: “It mongs you out and is cheap as chips. It’s a tenner a bag and it’ll last you all day and all night. If I gave you a few sprinkles in a roll-up you would wake up in A&E.

“Once you’re on it it is so hard to get off. It is as strong as heroin and the ­withdrawals are terrible. You sweat, shake and your anxiety goes through the roof.

Scary

“When you can’t get it you’re like a zombie. They go out begging or busking or crime happens.

Two men passed out from drug use at Wrexham bus station
(Photo: Gavin Rodda)

“I’ve seen people pull out great big knives saying, ‘I want my f***ing Spice, who’s got it?’ They’re like zombies ­foaming at the mouth. It’s an evil drug.”

Chris got hooked on Spice during a short spell in Bristol prison for shoplifting but had managed to kick the habit.

He said: “You can’t buy it in shops any more so everybody is buying it off the internet or making it themselves. But they’ve got no idea what they’re doing.

“The first four or five minutes you ­regret even doing it. It just makes you feel horrible. But then it gets better and you feel positive.

“My friend had a long prison sentence and he ended up with a colostomy bag. It blows your organs up and causes internal bleeding. He was in there for three years and taking it every day.

“When he came out of prison he bought a bigger quantity and his heart blew up.”

Mum-of-two Gemma Sharp, 41, has been taking Spice, on and off, for a year. She said: “In the last few weeks I’ve noticed some strong stuff is coming along. Sometimes you can take five drags and it’s all right but I’d never take that many.

“You feel it after half a drag. Any more would knock you clean out. I woke up in an ambulance once. I was out cold. I had no idea what was going on.

“It’s scary. I was stood in one place once for three hours because of Spice. I just couldn’t move. It’s strong. I have it now if a joint is being passed around, but it’s such a big risk.

“I’ve been struggling with addiction for most of my life and Spice isn’t going to be doing me any favours.”

Jim Spear, 26, said: “It makes your heart race and it pumps you full of adrenaline.

New strain of the drug Spice is turning Manchester’s homeless people into ‘the walking dead’
(Photo: Manchester Evening News)

“I ended up in the back of an ambulance twice. It felt like I was having a heart attack. My heart was ­beating too quickly. I couldn’t physically ­control it. It’s ten times worse than weed.”

In Manchester, support worker Julie Boyle for the charity Lifeshare which helps homeless young people, said Spice was ­becoming an ­epidemic, with heroin and cocaine ­dealers now selling it.

She said: “They call it green heroin it’s so addictive. The homeless ­started using it to help get their head down, to help them sleep. But then it became an addiction. Some people are doing it all day. It’s a 24-hour thing.

“Walking to work in the morning you can see them slumped, or in the ­afternoon or at night.”

She said Spice was far more powerful and addictive than regular cannabis and that low-level street dealers were ­getting the homeless hooked.

Julie said: “They pay them in Spice to carry it for them. There’s ­someone higher up the chain making money out of this. That’s who the ­police need to target, taking out the low-level dealers doesn’t solve the problem.

A man and women down the side the Debenhams Manchester
A man and women down the side the Debenhams Manchester
(Photo: Manchester Evening News)

“It is an epidemic among the homeless, it’s grim.

“Anyone coming to us I advise them not to touch the stuff. I’d rather they smoked weed.”

Police in the city say they are working hard to combat the Spice dealers. Insp Phil Spurgeon said: “We’re seeing more and more people using Spice in busy public areas in the city centre and we must tackle it to ensure the area is still a safe place for the whole community.

“Our enforcement tactics have seen us tackling street dealing and using these arrests as an opportunity to target those higher up the chain.”

“We are absolutely ­committed to tackling this issue, bringing dealers to justice and helping people using Spice to get the ­support that they need.”

Researcher Harry Shapiro, who spent five months speaking to 32 drug organisations and 13 police forces about Spice, believes much of what is out there used to be in shops.

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