Three prison officers were rushed to hospital for treatment after inhaling second-hand smoke from the drug ‘spice’ in a West Lothian prison.
According to the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), the three individuals were taken to hospital following an incident at HMP Addiewell on Saturday.
Spice – sometimes referred to as the “zombie drug” due to its effect on users – is a synthetic substitute for cannabis and was previously known as a so-called legal high.
However it was banned last year by Theresa May, meaning it is now a criminal offence to produce, sell or supply the drug. Since the ban the drug is now classed as a ‘new psychoactive substance’.
In a radio interview, Steve Farrell, from the Community trade union representing members at HMP Addiewell, said: “It’s been reported to us for a couple of months from the staff and from our members in Addiewell that the illegal highs and Spice in particular is causing some real concern.
“I’ve been in the prison service a long time. We started with cannabis, it then led to heroin and now unfortunately we’re onto things like Spice.
“This in particular is probably more unknown in terms of the medical effects than other class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine.”
It is understood the officers were taken ill after walking into a prison cell where spice had been smoked.
The drug’s symptoms can include hallucinations as well as feelings of extreme anxiety and paranoia. It has also been known to reduce users to a semi-comatose state.
An HMP Addiewell spokesman said: “We can confirm three staff were taken unwell while on duty on Saturday and taken to hospital by ambulance.
“We work closely with the police and NHS to tackle drugs, which are a challenge across the whole prison estate.”