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Need to know: drugs

March 2nd 2015

There’s been an increase in the use of Pregabalin to enhance other drugs... but there are risks.

There’s been an increase in the use of Pregabalin to enhance other drugs... but there are risks. DrugScope has released its latest annual Street Drug Trend Survey. The 17 regions it looked at included London, Birmingham and Glasgow.

What did the report find? It found that new synthetic cannabinoids such as Black Mamba and Exodus Damnation are on the rise – especially among rough sleepers, as well as prisoners, people who use opiates (opiates include codeine, morphine, methadone and heroin) and socially-excluded teenagers.

What are synthetic cannabinoids? Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that act like cannabis. The effects are similar too – good and bad. They are usually sold in ‘herbal’ smoking mixtures.

Also known as: x, Tai High Hawaiian Haze, Spice, Mary Joy, Exodus Damnation, Ecsess, Devil's Weed, Clockwork Orange, Bombay Blue Extreme, Blue Cheese, Black Mamba, Annihilation, Amsterdam Gold.

What are the side-effects? Because they’re so new (and the chemicals used are changing all the time) the after-effects are not clear. But they are likely to be similar to cannabis – and possibly more harmful.
Some symptoms that have been reported include: an increased heart rate, panic attacks, convulsions (uncontrollable shaking of the body), feeling on edge or restless, feeling tired or drowsy, feeling sick, being sick and hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t there).

What do homeless services say? A homeless charity in Birmingham told DrugScope: “When our clients come in for opiate treatment, it’s hard to deal with them after they’ve smoked it. They are collapsing in the street. Some of them have been hospitalised several times. They are using it because it’s cheap, it’s strong and because those who are out on license will not go back to jail if they are caught.”

Are they legal? Some are legal, most are not. A large number, including Black Mamba and Annihilation, are Class B drugs and are illegal to have, give away or sell. Some contain synthetic cannabinoids that are currently legal to possess, but it’s risky as you don’t know what’s in any smoking mixture.

Anything else? There’s also a big increase in people misusing Pregabalin and Gabapentin to enhance other drugs, such as alcohol, heroin, methadone and diazepam.

What are Pregabalin and Gabapentin? Pregabalin and Gabapentin are anticonvulsant medicines used to treat epilepsy, neuropathic pain (pain in damaged nerves) and anxiety. Both are available on prescription only – but can be bought cheaply on the black market.

Also known as: Lyrica (Pregabalin) and Neurontin (Gabapentin).

What are the side-effects? Reported effects include “extreme intoxication and uninhibited, risky behaviours”, such as sex workers taking risks.
Mixing Pregabalin and Gabapentin with depressants such as drugs or alcohol also increases the risk of an overdose – and there has been an increase in the number of deaths involving the medicines.

What do homeless services say? One drug worker in York told DrugScope, “The drugs can reduce the heart rate and if taken with methadone can be extremely dangerous, so we now have to consider whether people are using these drugs when we prescribe methadone…”
Often [people] don’t know what strength capsules they are taking because they look similar.”

For confidential advice on drugs from Frank, visit, call 0300 123 6600 (24/7, advisors are available in 120 languages), text 82111 or email

See The List section of the magazine and look for services marked 'D'. To find your nearest Narcotics Anonymous meeting, or call 0300 999 1212 (10am–midnight).


March 2015



Advice: Gambling it all

Need to know: drugs

Focus: Arts with benefits

Readers give their views

Authorities held to account

Emmaus launches new centre

Norway drops begging laws

Award-winning storage

US woman walks for justice

Man shot for throwing rocks

Homeless people urged to register to vote

Football dreams

Homeless man set on fire

Locals mourn ‘car lady’

City-wide hostel upgrade

Weekend drop-in closes doors

Cooking up a plan

London fights back

Soup runs: a reader replies

Private protection


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