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Five Grizedale students were hospitalized on the evening of Thursday Week 5 after taking the synthetic drug ‘Spice’. Two of the students were in a critical condition overnight after overdosing on the drug, but were confirmed as stable on Friday by the University. The other three students were discharged late on the Thursday evening.
The five students, who were 19 year old first years, took the drug together in a Grizedale townhouse. An ambulance and parademic car were seen to arrive outside the townhouse on Pendle Avenue shortly after 6.30pm. Police vehicles arrived shortly after and remained at the scene late into the night, believed to be searching the accommodation for any more of the drug.
Students were warned of the incident and to be careful of the substance by the University. After 9pm the University tweeted and emailed this warning to students. It read:
“Five students are in hospital, two of them critically ill following a suspected overdose of a drug called Spice. It is extremely important if you have taken the drug to call 999 immediately and call for an ambulance. Please also check on anyone you think may have taken it.
“Spice is a cannabis based drug and can be bought over the internet. Packages may be labelled ‘not for human consumption’.”
Spice is a cannabis substitute, often described as “synthetic marijuana” because it is chemically similar to marijuana, but its effects are sometimes very different and is frequently much stronger. Because the chemicals used in Spice have a high potential for abuse and no medical benefit, the Drug Enforcement Administration has made many of the active chemicals most frequently found in Spice illegal. However, the people who make these products try to avoid these laws by using different chemicals in their mixtures
On the evening of Thursday Week 5, President Laura Clayson spoke to SCAN voicing her concern over the incident. She said, “obviously we are concerned and encourage all students to follow the advice [and] guidance given by the University. Our thoughts are with the students affected.”
The drug was formerly a legal high and users have expressed similar experiences to taking marijuana- elevated mood, relaxation and altered perception. However side effects of the drug can also include psychotic effects such as extreme anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.
Lancaster University Police posted a statement via facebook on Saturday Week 25 saying that focus must be on both steering students away from these substances but also ensuring the safe recovery of the students recently hospitalized. “This week has seen Lancaster University in the national media following an unfortunate incident that has occurred on campus.
“I will be offering my support to those involved and their college this week as I know that this has been a difficult week for all. Please do not however think that I am condoning the taking of drugs as you all know how I feel about drugs and I do feel that this incident highlights the need to be aware of the severe consequences of poor decisions and this foolish attitude towards drugs and legal highs in particular.
“Legal highs are not safer that other drugs, they are merely substances that have not yet been subject to legislation. They are often untested and consumption will have serious consequences as seen this week.” It continues, “drugs on the markets and sold to the general public are severely diluted and are often cut with bleach, washing powder, brick dust and other toxins. As for plant matter such as cannabis this too is being mixed with chemical sprays and silicon beads which is essentially glass.”
University sent out an update around midday on Friday Week 25, which stated: “The two remaining students are conscious and in a stable condition. Thanks again for all the messages of support”.
Lancaster and Fleetwood’s recently elected MP Cat Smith spoke after the incident about drug education and safety. She said to ITV, “I think a lot of students and young people who aren’t students do take these substances thinking because they are legal they are safe. I think we need to a lot more around education and making sure people know the real risk of people taking these substances.
Smith continued, “I think with it being exam period and having been a student at Lancaster myself, I know you do enter, what you term, a silly season and people want to relax after exams and I think that is a natural reaction. It is concerning to me that people are taking very dangerous substances as a way of relaxing”.