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CRAZED LAGS IN A&E DASH AFTER NEW LEGAL HIGH.

Byline: AMARDEEP BASSEY Special Correspondent

ANEW dangerous legal high which can lead to violent fits is fast becoming the drug of choice in Midland prisons.

Known as Black Mamba, the artificial cannabis cannot be picked up by routine drug tests and is easily passed off as rolling tobacco.

But its psychotic effects and extensive use has coined the phrase 'mambulances',' because of the sheer volume of people being taken to A&E by paramedics.

A recent report by the chief inspector of prisons has warned that the drug is causing "serious physical and mental health consequences."

The HMIP report says Midland prisons including Birmingham, Hewell and Oakwood are affected, alongside more than 20 other prisons across the country.

A recent inspection report at Oakwood Prison in Featherstone said high levels of bullying were linked to use of Black Mamba.

Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick described prisoners who have taken the drug as experiencing seizures, psychosis, loss of motor control and an irregular heartbeat.

One former lag at Birmingham Prison told the Sunday Mercury that Black Mamba and other synthetic cannabis herbs such as Spice were readily available. "Everyone seems to be on it," he said. "There's hardly any smell to it and it looks like ordinary tobacco. It doesn't show up in drugs tests.

"But some users are having severe reactions and it's common for ambulances to be turning up three or four times a week to take users to hospital after taking the stuff."

He added that one gram of Black Mamba in prison can fetch more than PS100 - more than ten times its retail price of less than PS8. "The trouble is that for prisoners on an 'income' of PS9 a week, a Mamba habit, in addition to a likely cigarette habit, is unaffordable," said the ex-con. "They frequently get into debt and are beaten or turned into smugglers for the dealers."

Another former inmate at HMP Hewell near Redditch in Worcestershire said: "It's easily smuggled in by visitors.

"I've seen people go absolutely psychotic and violent after taking a smoke of Mamba.

"A lot of prisoners are tested for drug use when they get released on licence. They take Mamba so that they won't be sent back to prison for failing a drugs test."

Several deaths in the US have been blamed on Black Mamba, made from dried plants sprayed with engineered chemicals.

The psychoactive chemicals tend to be imported from pharmaceutical companies abroad and then mixed in the UK.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Prison staff take the use of any illicit substances in prison extremely seriously and use a range of robust measures to find them, including interrogation, intelligence, searches, specially trained dogs and random drug tests.

"Anyone caught with them will be dealt with severely and may be referred to the police for prosecution. The misuse of new psychoactive substances is an issue affecting many parts of society, including prisons."

Affected: Birmingham Prison

I've seen people go absolutely psychotic and violent after taking a smoke of Mamba

CAPTION(S):

The legal high is hard to detect and looks like tobacco

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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 8, 2015
Words:518
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