UK: ‘SPICE’ (N.P.S) ‘Zombie’ Drug only adding to Homelessness!

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But if you don’t walk by, if you ask them what it’s like, there’s a message everyone we speak to repeats: spice is worse than heroin. It hits you with the physical addiction of heroin and the mental need of crack or cocaine.

“You don’t know what you’re taking, to be honest,” says one spice user, who says she’s been off the drug for six days.

“And when you do take it, it just makes you trip out and sometimes you get this scary feeling. But then it’ll just wipe you out completely, like stronger than heroin for a good, like, 20 minutes. And then you’ll come round without even realising you’ve been under for the last 20 minutes. Then you spark up another spliff and just go on and on and on.

“Do not take it. It’s the worst drug ever. It’s worse than heroin. Once you’re hooked on it, you’re f***ed basically.”



Spice is a man-made drug, usually a mix of herbs or shredded plant material with mind-altering chemicals sprayed on to them. Although it is sold in packets to look like cannabis, the effects come from the chemicals and can vary massively depending on what’s been used in its production.

It’s smoked, like a rolled cigarette, is highly addictive and effects can vary between feelings of relaxation and euphoria. However, it also causes a significant reduction in the respiratory system, which causes the body to shut down due to low oxygen levels – hence the zombie-like state. One user said their heart was beating so hard it felt like it was going to come out of their chest.

But it doesn’t just send users into a dazed state. Harry Shapiro, director of DrugWise and a drug information and policy analyst, said one user was taken to A&E in that state, only to go berserk once they came out of it.

Outside the medical centre in Butetown, the woman who’s been off it for six days – and started smoking it a year and a half before it was made illegal – describes the effect on her behaviour.

“It’s affected me big-time with my paranoia”, she says.

“I get angry a lot quicker. I’m not an angry person but it’s turned me, not violent, but I get really irate within seconds.

“It’s not good to come off, it has the same effects as heroin when withdrawing. It’s psychologically addictive. With crack, it’s not a physical withdrawal, it’s psychosis. You see things that aren’t there, you hear things, people talking to you when they’re not, you’re constantly wary and paranoid. I’ve accused my own friends of robbing me when they haven’t.”

In Swansea, Lisa, a heroin user living on the streets, says spice is rife. She tried it once but “it scared the life out of me”.

“Spice is dangerous to me”, she says. Then she says it too: “it is worse than heroin”.

Barrie, a 34-year-old from Port Talbot who struggles with heroin addiction, said he tried spice a couple of times while in prison – where he would be offered the drug on a daily basis – and that all it took was a couple of drags to “knock you out for six”.

“You can be out of your mind,” he says, adding that people in that so-called zombie state can see what is going on but they can’t move.

In general, spice seems to be a problem among the homeless and prison communities. Users describe how they wake up to several texts from dealers, so they rarely have to go looking. In prison, they say it’s even easier. Inside, the problem has been described as an “epidemic” which is putting nurses and inmates at serious risk. People living in Butetown say seeing drug deals outside their homes in broad daylight is now the norm, despite the fact Cardiff’s biggest police station is a neighbour.

“We know people who sell it. You can get it in £5 bags, £10 bags,” says the woman.

“We get judged for everything but believe it or not, it’s people who are not homeless who have introduced us to this. Everything is blamed on homeless people. I don’t want to smoke it. I’ve been off it for six days. You can’t just come off it with nothing, though,” she says, adding that valium and diazepam help.

Another man tells a painful story of how he got addicted. He says he worked a normal job and had his own home but after falling out with his family and becoming addicted to drugs he became another of the city’s homeless, who have tripled in number in the last ten years, according to an addiction charity. He stands there in his dark tracksuit waiting for his methadone, a 60ml dose.


You think it’s all fun and games. The first time I smoked it, two drags and I was in Llandough (hospital). Do not, at any cost, smoke it. It’s bad stuff, you don’t know what’s in it, it’s not a drug to smoke and not for human consumption.

“I’m off it now and I hope to stay off it. I’ve got my focus set. I’m going to do my utmost best to stay off it because I know what it does and I’ve seen good friends die.”



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