At least nine youths in Manchester have been hospitalised by “THC vape liquid” containing the dangerous drug “Spice.”

According to Greater Manchester Drug Alerts Panel (GMDAP), at least six incidents of youths collapsing have been reported in the Greater Manchester area since February 2019.

The GMDAP, which brings together police, NHS, local authorities and drug user support agencies, have issued a warning for youths, and cannabis users in general, not to buy or use vaping liquid that dealers are selling as a natural cannabis-based “THC vape”, as they could contain Spice.

Tests conducted on samples used in two of the incidents confirmed that the drug added to the vaping liquid are the same chemical compounds found in “spice,” the formerly legal high which claimed to imitate the effects of cannabis.

Local authorities believe that the youths were sold the vape liquid under the guise that it contained THC. The spice-based vape juices are being sold as “THC vape juice,” “THC vape pens,” “THC oil,” and “cannabis oil.”

The “Spice Juice” is being sold both as a 10ml e-liquid bottle and as pre-filled cartridges.

So far three youths have been hospitalised in Rochdale, five in Oldham, and the final incident occurred in Bury. In Oldham, there were two incidents of school-aged children being hospitalised.

Discussing the disturbing incidents, Dr Prun Bijral, a member of the panel and medical director of CGL, a national drug charity that supports young people in Greater Manchester, said:

“It is very worrying that we have seen half a dozen incidents of young people collapsing and having to be taken to hospital after vaping these products.

“Fortunately it does not seem likely they will suffer any long-term harm, but we don’t want to see anyone else affected, particularly as we approach the school summer holidays.

“Inhaling even a single vape of this type of drug in this way for a young person with no tolerance is highly likely to lead to negative physical and mental effects.

“Young people who buy this product thinking it will have an effect similar to natural cannabis are not only being ripped off, they are also putting themselves and their friends in real danger.”

The risk of vaping ‘spice’ is far more dangerous than from a natural cannabis product.
– Michael Linnell, a member of the Greater Manchester Drug Alerts Panel

Michael Linnell, a member of the Greater Manchester Drug Alerts Panel, added:

“These vape liquids are being mis-sold to young people who think they are buying something that is highly desirable in their eyes, but which in fact is a synthetic product that has the same chemicals used in street ‘spice’.

“The risk of vaping ‘spice’ is far more dangerous than from a natural cannabis product.

“It is difficult for even experienced spice users to judge dosage and unintentionally administering a toxic dose is common. Severe poisoning is far more common with synthetic cannabinoids than with cannabis and in some cases, the poisoning may even be fatal.”

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) are currently investigating but no arrests have been made at this time.

Incidents like this expose the dangerous side of prohibition.

Unregulated, the lucrative cannabis market has been handed to criminal gangs who have no issues with selling their products to minors. This, however, is a new worry for authorities: cannabis users being sold a far more dangerous drug than they believe they are using.

Bringing the control of cannabis back into the hands of a regulated market has the potential of preventing incidents like this spreading to the wider UK cannabis black market. Cannabis is the most popular illegal drug in the UK; without a legal outlet to purchase their cannabis, users who do not grow their own are subject to the will of criminal gangs.

There is no evidence to suggest that the British population is going to stop using cannabis. The best policy now is harm reduction.