Man fights for life after taking legal high
A 24-year-old man remains in a critical condition after taking a legal high dubbed Clockwork Orange hours before a blanket ban comes into force.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) confirmed that in Rochdale alone, nine people in the past four days have collapsed and fallen ill after suffering adverse reactions to the substances, calling it a "worrying development".
The most serious of the casualties remains on a ventilator in intensive care having suffered a cardiac arrest after he was found collapsed in Milnrow Road on Tuesday.
But as of midnight, the substances - which mimic the effects of drugs such as ecstasy and cannabis and which could be bought in shops, will be outlawed amid concerns they have been linked to deaths and anti-social behaviour.
It will be a criminal offence if you are caught supplying them.
Under the new legislation, the ban prohibits the production, supply and importation of the synthetic substances that have the same or similar effects to some class A drugs.
Police in Rochdale said they had been called to deal with the "alarming" string of casualties between Friday and Tuesday.
Superintendent Alistair Mallen, of GMP's Rochdale borough, said: "It is a really worrying development over a short space of time. There are issues with legal highs and the impact right across the country, people dying as a result of taking this. It's not just a Rochdale situation however it is really alarming."
Police continue to reiterate their warning of the dangers of taking the substances which are available under hundreds of different brands and could be seen on shelves alongside e-cigarettes and vapours.
Mr Mallen added that some of the substances were stronger than Class A dugs and side effects can include profuse sweating, heart palpitations, psychosis and seizures.
He said: "This stuff will kill you. Even the package tells you how harmful and dangerous they are. The bottom line is 'do not take it'.
"The circumstances speak for themselves, people have died from drugs like we know. Please do not take these legal highs -these are really dangerous."
He added that a criminal investigation was now under way following Friday's casualties and two men remain in police custody.
The men, aged 34 and 6,1 were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B drugs in connection to incidents that took place on Friday.
Mr Mallen also gave a clear message to suppliers with officers being granted powers to seize and destroy the psychoactive substances.
"I'm really pleased that this will be the last day that I say legal high because as of midnight tonight these become illegal so if you are caught supplying these that is a criminal offence.
"Make sure you understand the legislation because in the next days and weeks days we will be coming out to visit anybody who we think might be supplying this sort of stuff."
Greater Manchester Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd added that the damage of so-called legal highs should "not be dismissed or ignored", adding that people were putting their lives at risk.
He said: "The big issue is getting across to people the dangers of taking these substances and ultimately, saving lives. Tackling those who sell legal highs is also an important step.
"People are putting their lives in danger because of the misconception that these so-called 'legal highs' are safe. Spice, for example, is more dangerous than marijuana and can have fatal consequences, and a Rochdale man is currently fighting for his life after taking a legal high."
He said he was "repeatedly" told by the frontline emergency services workers that legal highs - with the exception of alcohol, were the biggest drivers of demand at the weekend.
Steve Hynes, Greater Manchester Head of Service for the North West Ambulance Service, also welcomed the legislation and said it was difficult to know how to treat a person who had taken the substance because of the many different substances on the market.
He said: "This can delay treatment and have long-term consequences for the individual. We hope the introduction of this legislation will send out a clear message that when taking these legal highs you are risking your safety and even your life."
Commander Simon Bray, the National Police Chiefs Council's lead on new psychoactive substances, warned at the weekend that the ban could drive dealers onto the so-called "dark web" - unlisted websites that are difficult to trace.
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