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'We must share the risks of new drugs' Top cop says more should have been done about methadrone.

Byline: Sam Malone

CHARITIES, police and other organisations working to combat the spread of illegal drugs in South Wales should learn to share information more readily, one of the country's most senior intelligence officers said yesterday.

Detective chief inspector Martin Tavener, head of the Wales Regional Intelligence Unit based in Bridgend, said more could have been done to limit the supply and use of mephedrone when it first flooded Wales' streets.

DCI Tavener said he personally feels the nation's police forces, drug charities and other authorities I've number drugs missed "some quick wins" in the fight against the drug - also known as "meow meow" - when it was classed as a legal high.

His comments came as a senior nurse told of the effects the drug had had on her patients and how drug prevention workers should brace themselves for "the next big thing".

Jan Kauffling, an adviser for the Welsh Primary Care Quality and Information Service, was speaking alongside DCI Tavener at a conference in Swansea on new and emerging drugs, organised by drug prevention charity SANDS Cymru.

The pair both spoke openly about the difficulties Wales has had in combating the mephedrone problem.

Both admitted the organisations responsible for stopping the inflow of mephedrone - which up until April 2010 was a "legal high" - and for educating potential users of the dangers it posed, should have shared their knowledge and experiences better.

DCI Tavener, head of the Wales Regional Intelligence Unit, said if the public had been better informed of the risks involved they may not have been tempted to take the drug.

"Did we miss some quick wins when mephedrone and related substances started to emerge?" he asked delegates at the conference. "I was county commander in rural Powys during that time, my personal opinion was that we probably did.

"We could have been more dynamic with sharing information with partners and the public."

" He added: "My belief is police and partner agencies have a public duty, where appropriate, to give accuratenew information on new substances as timely as possible so that whoever receives that information can make informed decisions."

During 2011-12, the four Welsh police forces saw a 83% rise in mephedronerelated offences while in 2012-13 seizures of the drug rose by 165%.

Ms Kauffling, who predominantly works with homeless people, told delegates exactly how mephedrone had impacted on users' lives.

Describing the drug's emergence she said: "I was going along quite happily looking after homeless people with substance misuse and then all of a sudden there was this swamp and I was up to my neck in mephadrone.

"Within a week it seemed everyone was on the meow, and I mean everybody."

Users, she said, suffered from severe bruising, abscesses, chest pains, palpitations and numbness of the hands and feet.

While both DCI Tavener and Ms Kauffling said the mephedrone problem in Wales appeared to be subsiding, they said users were already seeking out new drugs and as such organisations should learn to share information more readily.

Ms Kauffling added: "I've already received a number of warnings about new drugs circulating locally.

"The future of the drugs scene in the UK is likely to be these new drugs and it seems to me that we don't really have a lot of lifebelts out there."

Organisations working to combat the spread of drugs in South Wales should share information more readily, one of the country's most senior intelligence officers has said at a drugs conference in Swansea

I've already received a number of warnings about new drugs circulating locally...
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 8, 2013
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