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Addicts ‘will risk lives’ in lockdown drugs famine

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A DRUG famine on Jersey’s streets is being anticipated as supply links all but dry up during lockdown.

A heroin user (27891720)

And experts fear addicts – particularly those hooked on heroin – could turn to riskier intravenous consumption methods to make the most of dwindling supplies, opioid replacements or over-the-counter medicines.

One recovered addict said users will risk their lives hoarding supplies of Subutex – a drug used to wean addicts of heroin – and inject it to maximise its effects.

‘This drug is not designed for intravenous use, therefore causes clots, gangrene and even death through sepsis. I know someone who died this way locally and it is horrific,’ she said.

Almost 97% of illegal drugs seized by Customs coming into the Island arrived by passenger air or sea services, according to 2016 statistics. The vast majority of seized drugs are found at the Harbour.

In 2019, more than £12million of drugs was seized at by Customs – mostly heroin from one £10 million haul. Cannabis resin (£1.15 million) and ecstasy (£615,000) also topped the list.

The head of the Island’s Alcohol and Drugs Service, Simba Kashiri, said they were expecting an increase in referrals as addicts unable to get their fix require drug replacements and help.

The service currently prescribes opioid replacements to 145 people, though the number of addicts in total on the Island is expected to be much higher.

Mr Kashiri said there was also evidence in other jurisdictions of addicts turning to synthetic drugs – once dubbed ‘legal highs’ – that can be ordered via the internet and posted to users’ doors.

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Customs chiefs say they are alive to a changing drug market as a result of the pandemic and continue to monitor the ports as well as packages at the post office. The States police were unavailable for comment.

A drug expert for the service said he did not think Jersey would see a rise in synthetic or new psychoactive drug use.

Mr Kashiri said: ‘Some addicts have turned to over-the-counter meds, diverted opiate replacement and benzodiazepine medications and increased alcohol intake.

‘We also suspect that some will choose riskier ways to consume these drugs such as injecting drugs to get an enhanced affect.

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‘However, intelligence from other jurisdictions show there has been an increase in synthetic drug use usually purchased online and delivered via the post. We have not heard about this becoming a growing concern from our clients yet.’

The so-called legal-high trade boomed in Jersey between 2009 and 2015 but its popularity has plummeted in recent years following a blanket ban on the drugs in the UK and long campaigns, as a well as a number of deaths, locally.

The recovered drug addict told the JEP that ‘to survive as an addict in Jersey you have to be far more creative’ due to the inconsistent supply.

The woman added that many addicts will know when others are going to pick up their ‘opiate or benzodiazepine script’ and said that ‘swapping, selling and using prescription drugs’ was one of the key ways to users maintained their habits in the Island.

‘When an addict has their main source cut off they will always find a potentially more harmful substitute. Harmful for themselves and very harmful for our community,’ she said.

Andy Hunt, assistant director at Customs and Immigration, said the force was ‘conscious of the effect that a disrupted supply chain will have on the import and supply of drugs.’

The service’s drug expert added: ‘We see little or no new psychoactive substances in Jersey. NPS was previously imported in bulk quantities from source countries such as China and think it unlikely that we will see an increase locally in seizures of NPS. UK NPS legislation has ensured that supplies of these types of drugs are severely limited in the UK. There is no evidence to suggest that the NPS market will reconstitute itself.’

The service’s drug expert said that the prescribing of opiates such as Fentanyl is ‘tightly monitored although there will always be some instances of diversion’.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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