The number of people across Derbyshire using a banned party drug has jumped by 17 per cent in just one year, the Derbyshire Times can reveal.
Police have launched a crackdown targeting users of mephedrone (MCAT) as a drugs charity says the shock trend needs to be stamped out as scores of families struggle to cope.
The data from Spoda – which supports addicts’ families – comes after a police operation to tackle the possession and supply of MCAT led to a string of arrests across Chesterfield.
MCAT was classed as a so-called ‘legal high’ up until April 2010 when it was made a class B drug given its potency and powerful side effects.
The highly-addictive drug – which produces intense feelings of euphoria – can cause brain damage and heart problems.
It also leaves users feeling extremely paranoid and anxious.
Spoda’s figures show a “significant” rise in the number of people in Derbyshire using MCAT – from five per cent in 2012/13 to 22 per cent in 2013/14.
David Weaver, a family worker at Chesterfield-based charity Spoda, said: “We’re living in times of austerity and people of all ages – not just the younger generation – are using MCAT.
“The impact this has on their carers and families is huge – they are struggling to cope.
“We need to talk more about the risks and the harms of MCAT – we need to put an end to this worrying trend.”
In the last few months, officers have arrested 11 suspects in Chesterfield over the possession and supply of MCAT in an operation code-named Phoenix.
Inspector John Roddis, of Derbyshire police, said: “The use of MCAT is becoming more and more popular across Derbyshire.
“The users of the drug are being linked to and involved in violent and acquisitive offences which includes car crime and burglaries.”
In October, officers arrested two men, aged 21 and 23, for possession with intent to supply a class B drug. Both men were later charged and appeared at Chesterfield magistrates’ court on New Year’s Eve. Nathan Bailey, of Manvers Court, Shirebrook, was found guilty of the charge, fined £155 and ordered to pay £85 costs. Ryan Smith, of Station Road, Shirebrook, was due to appear at Derby Crown Court as the Derbyshire Times went to press on Wednesday.
During November, a number of other arrests were made.
These included two men who were stopped by police on Birchwood Crescent, Chesterfield. A property was searched and an amount of suspected MCAT was found. A 42-year-old man and a 25-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of possession with intent to supply a class A drug. Both men have been released on bail pending further investigations.
Last year, Derbyshire police made 165 cautions, summons and charges for supply, possession and possession with intent to supply MCAT.
Latest figures for 2011 show there were six deaths involving MCAT reported in England and Wales.
For more information about Spoda, visit www.spoda.co.uk. The Spoda support line is 0845 600 3320.
Anyone with concerns about drugs can visit www.doyouknowwhatsinit.org.uk. If you have information about drugs in your community, call Derbyshire police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.