Some babies in Scarborough are born addicted to “legal high” drugs, it was revealed today as the resort was named Yorkshire’s capital for the sale of the narcotics.
Services including A&E are said to be buckling under the strain of an “epidemic” which some health workers say is crippling the town.
Scarborough’s most senior police officer spoke of the “extreme” impact legal high drugs are having on the community.
Temporary chief inspector Lindsey Stamp said: “We are seeing a number of babies born that are demonstrating withdrawal symptoms very quickly after birth and for extended periods of time.”
She told a North Yorkshire Police meeting that the symptoms differ from those experienced by mothers using drugs like heroin during pregnancy.
That meeting also heard that North Yorkshire County Council has said Scarborough is alone in north Yorkshire in being “at risk” from legal highs.
It also heard:
• Many users have been left with “horrendous” chemical burns after injecting legal highs into their blood.
• A sharp rise in violent crime in Scarborough - and jail - has been linked to legal highs.
• Drug dealers are peddling legal highs alongside drugs like crack and M-Cat.
The meeting also heard that teenagers, especially those aged around 15, are most likely to get hooked on the over-the-counter powders.
The borough’s MP Robert Goodwill said legislation was currently being drafted; He said: “We should get a second reading in the autumn with Royal Assent before the parliamentary session ends in the spring.
“I am sure that they are wrestling with the challenges of wording the bill in a watertight way.”
Chief Inspector Stamp said: “There is concern this bill won’t answer all of our problems.
She said one problem was that unlike the Misuse of Drug Act it runs alongside, it won’t allow officers to search suspects.
She said there were “inconsistencies” with the current wording that need tightening as in its present form it would be difficult to enforce and open to legal challenge.
Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan, who chaired the Corporate Performance, Delivery and Scrutiny Board meeting, has now vowed to lobby MP’s to ensure the legislation is watertight when it comes in.
Describing the impact legal highs were putting on key services, especially healthcare, a report put before the board read: “The difficulty is they do not know what they are dealing with.
“Some of the older adult drug-users are starting to experiment which brings its own dangers as these are people who have previously been stable on opiate substances for a significant time and are now introducing chemical compounds to them and that is causing some significant danger and demand on medical services.”
Figures disclosed last October revealed that children as young as 12 were being rushed to hospital after dabbling with the potions.
Ed Smith, emergency department consultant at Scarborough Hospital, said the service was feeling the strain from the rise in their use.
“We are seeing a significant impact of the use of legal highs particularly by young people in our community,” he said.
“The short and long term effects of legal highs are highly unpredictable and we would advocate avoiding such substances.”