Police in Manchester have launched a crackdown on use of the drug Spice, a former legal high, amid fears that it is contributing to social deprivation and antisocial behaviour.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it had received 31 calls relating to the drug in 24 hours, after launching a two-day banning order in the city.
Most of the calls related to the Piccadilly area, police told the BBC. They added that 14 of the calls it received were about people collapsing.
Spice – a cheap synthetic cannabis substitute – is reported to induce a “zombie-like” state and is known to cause seizures, paranoid delusions and psychotic episodes.
North West Ambulance Service said in March there had been a rise in calls related to Spice. Users and drug abuse support workers said the Government ban on the drug – which came into effect in May – had only made it easier to get hold of.
The former legal high has become particularly problematic among the young homeless since it provided a cheap, momentary escape from their situation, Centrepoint caseworkers told The Independent in December.
The police crackdown by GMP, part of "Operation Mandera", came after a homeless man in Birmingham died after smoking a different synthetic drug, known as Black Mamba.
Police told the The Manchester Evening News 51 arrests have been made in the space of three weeks, including 20 suspected Spice dealers.
City centre Inspector Phil Spurgeon told the local paper that the ban on synthetic highs had shifted supply onto city streets, where the drug is not consistent in its effects.
“Now it’s more varied, the make-up is constantly changing," he said "That’s why we’re seeing people collapsing, as the drug becomes more potent.”
He said the force was under more pressure to do work to reduce the harm caused by the drug, adding: “It can be very scary."
Spice has also wreaked havoc in prisoners, with a BBC Panorama investigation filming prisoners passed out after inhaling the drug at HMP Northumberland.
Between 7.45pm on Friday and 7.45pm on Saturday, the force received 31 calls which may be related to Spice in the city centre alone, GMP told the BBC.
Two men were arrested and three people given dispersal notices on Sunday because of Spice-related anti-social behaviour, the force added.
One of the men was arrested for breaching his dispersal notice and on suspicion of assaulting a medic treating him for issues relating to the synthetic drug.