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Legal highs threaten to overwhelm prison health services

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Legal highs are a serious problem in prisons Legal highs are a serious problem in prisons

Legal highs, or novel psychoactive substances, are stretching the health services of a Nottinghamshire prison to breaking point, a report by the HM Prison inspectorate has found.

The report into HMP Ranby found that 58% of people detained at the prison thought that drugs were easy to obtain, while 15% said they had developed a problem with drugs in the prison. Inspectors at the prison said that there were a number of prisoners who were under the influence of novel psychoactive substance. The strain placed on the health services was so severe that some prisoners, under the influence of the drugs, had been left with other prisoners to check they did not deteriorate because there were no available healthcare services to do so.

‘The prison faces the challenge of a destabilising supply of novel psychoactive substances, which threatens to overwhelm it,’ said Martin Lomas, deputy chief inspector of prisons. ‘The harm caused by novel psychoactive substances, in prisons requires a national policy.’

Legal highs are increasingly becoming a priority for the UK’s healthcare professionals. A bill to outlaw the substances, such as spice, a synthetic cannabinoid know to cause severe withdrawal symptoms, was recently passed by Parliament, in recognition of the impact that these drugs can have on health.

‘Novel psychoactive substances remains a real concern in prisons and we are introducing a new testing regime which will be rolled out across the country from April. Legislation is in place to ban so called "legal highs" and we will continue to work with police to disrupt supply chains and take robust action against anyone found supplying or using novel psychoactive substances in prisons,’ added Mr Lomas.

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