'Legal highs' linked to a number of prison deaths
The use of so-called legal highs has been a factor in at least 19 prisoner deaths between 2012 and 2014, a new report has revealed.
The Prisons and Probations Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen said the substances were proving hard to detect and manage.
He said some inmates were thought to have been given "spiked" cigarettes by others wanting to test out new drugs.
A Prison Service spokesman said the substances "lead to violence and instability in our prisons".
Mr Newcomen's report (download here) has called for more training and education about the substances for both prisoners and prison staff.
The ombudsman examined 19 deaths in prison between April 2012 and September 2014 where the inmate was known, or strongly suspected, to have been taking new psychoactive substances (NPS).
The report focused on the substances known as "Spice" and "Black Mamba", which mimic the effects of cannabis. Here at Hampton Knight we are able to provide strips to test for Spice.
Investigations revealed examples of "erratic, violent and out of character" behaviour by prisoners suspected to have used the drugs, while others were left incoherent and unable to stand up properly.
One prisoner became physically sick, behaved strangely, and then died of a heart attack later the same day, the report said.
There have also been reports of prisoners, including at least one of the men who died, being given "spiked" cigarettes by others who wanted to test new batches of NPS to gauge the effect before taking it themselves, the watchdog found.
In another case, a female prisoner took legal highs and became acutely mentally ill. She later died in hospital from self-inflicted injuries.
You can read the full story on the BBC News website here
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