If Spice Is The Variety Of Life, Why Are So Many Homeless People Dying After Using It?

If Spice Is The Variety Of Life, Why Are So Many Homeless People Dying After Using It?

I’ve never taken drugs… Well, unless you count popping a couple of paracetamol when I’ve had a headache (there will be more on my recent overuse of headache pills and whisky another day, when I’m able to fathom out why I wanted to end my life).  I don’t even like taking prescription drugs for any illness I might be suffering from. I bitterly resented the drug regime I was on to combat breast cancer, and more recently diabetes and hyperthyroidism to the point where I gathered up each and every drug – tamoxifen, avorstatin, warfarin – and about six or seven others all of them were popped into a plastic bag (which I’d had to pay 5p for, so Hell, yeah, I was recycling it) and dropped them all off at the chemist where I’d been collecting them for years. I’ve stopped taking them. I’m fed up of almost rattling every time I move, and more than this, I’m fed up with the side effects that these drugs have on my body, my skin, my mind, myself. So I’ve ditched them and to hell with the consequences. Irresponsible maybe, but I’ve never been what you would call ‘grown up’ – I might be progressing through life and getting visibly older, but in my head I’m about 25 and holding, thank you.

Even when I was actually 25, I never ‘did’ or ‘got’ drugs. Take so called ‘recreational’ drugs, for example – I didn’t and never have. I mustn’t be a very recreational person because I’ve never had the slightest inclination to get ‘high’ or ‘chilled’ or ‘giggly’ by popping a pill to lull me into a falseness that when the effects wear off, just makes the reality worse. Maybe recreation just isn’t for me and I’m going to work till I croak and that’ll be that. Goodbye to Jane, it was nice knowing you, even if you were a boring cow who never took any drugs.

However, whilst I have no inclination to reach a recreational high via the use of drugs, there are plenty of people who do, and it is an unfortunate indictment of our stress ridden society that many of the people striving to escape from reality into a recreational ‘time out’ are the most vulnerable and the most likely to become addicted.

I’ll give you a for instance – try being homeless. Go on, try it for a day. Take yourself off with just the clothes on your back and a bundle of shabby blankets and a newspaper. Go without food or money for a day and a night. Even the thought is scary, isn’t it? (I’ve been there, sadly not through choice but circumstance) See how long it takes you to try to find some form of escape from your cold, hard pavement in some dodgy doorway that stinks of someone else’s piss; see how easy it is to accept something – anything – to take away the gnawing hunger pains, the faintness, the dizziness, the weakness which keeps you in that doorway while you reach out to the people who ignore you as they step over your sorry state and carry on to that place you don’t have any more. Home. Oh, and by the way, the newspaper’s not to read – it’s to keep you warmer of a night. Pop it inside the shabby blankets – and extra bit of insulation. But pray it doesn’t rain.

That’s the problem with vulnerable people- they’re vulnerable to the stronger amongst us who are able to coerce them by offering them a magic elixir to their plight.  You try being homeless and you will be surprised at how fast you may turn into someone you don’t recognise anymore.  Spend some time on the streets and see how easy it is to turn to recreational drugs to escape from a reality you can’t believe you’ve ended up with.

Recreational drugs have been around a long time – for those old enough to remember, they were hugely popular in the ‘swinging sixties’ and the 1970’s is a decade remembered for the birth of psychedelic rock – a name borrowed from the drugs used by the bands who became known as pyschedelic or glam rockers – think Bowie; T Rex; Iggy Pop to name a handful.

Drugs were more freely available in those days – no one was really aware of the effects of LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide); Opium; Magic Mushrooms and of course, Cannabis – this one being hugely popular still today.  Once more drugs flooded into the mainstream, and their effects began being catalogued, more drugs became ‘classified’ and it’s classification of certain drugs which has driven suppliers and users underground. In turn, by driving drugs underground, there is no effective way to monitor how these drugs are changing – they hit the streets in a format with hidden ingredients and the vulnerable are made even more so by the very substances they have sought to rely on to get them through life, eventually killing them.

One such example is a new breed of weed sweeping through Europe at the moment called Spice.  It’s called that because there are so many variants, so many different chemicals added to the compound that is sprayed over the leaves which eventually find their way into a tiny bag of a few grams which you can buy for a few pounds that will give you that precious exit button from your miserable existence for a few hours, or days – depending upon how much you can afford and how hard the high.

Spice isn’t a natural cannabinoid like marijuana though – it’s a synthetic cocktail of substances created to mimic the effects of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) in marijuana – the stuff that gives you the ‘high’, that zones you out; and because it’s synthetic, no-one knows from one batch to the next what the resultant effects on the person smoking it will be. So, it isn’t weed. It isn’t natural. It doesn’t come in a nice tight bud, it’s sold loose because it’s been sprayed onto the plant which has then been picked and the leaves crushed to form a tobacco like substance. Sensible and regular users of weed can recognise Spice for what it is- but think again of the vulnerable homeless guy in the doorway which stinks of piss, being offered a bag for a fiver. It’s a small price he’s willing to pay  for a cheaper substance that gives him a heavier and more intense high, allowing him to escape the doorway for longer.

Spice makes minutes seem like hours, days seem like weeks, and weeks seem like months, years even.  It’s no wonder the homeless bloke in the doorway wants to take it. It’s strong and it’s cheap is the message it sends as dealers find suppliers who find the doorways to sell it. There’s an epidemic of it in Manchester at the moment. Walking out of Picadilly Station the other day, heading for the Northern Quarter, I spotted several people in an apparent ‘zombie’ like state, all either in the throes of a Spice trip, or just lying in their doorway coming back to reality from one.  They may not chose to believe it, but they may be the lucky  ones – they’ve survived. Spice is killing people, and how to deal with this epidemic is a matter that drug councils and the Government need to look at NOW before those doorways are piled high with bodies of homeless people who only wanted a few hours chill time, not a ride in an ambulance taking them to a chiller cabinet and eternity.  Spice is not the variety of life – it’s a tiny leaf filled bag of death.


©Amy J Steinberg 2017

3 thoughts on “If Spice Is The Variety Of Life, Why Are So Many Homeless People Dying After Using It?

  1. Cracking piece Jane, I work closely with the homeless of Manchester via a street kitchen, and spice is an unbelievable issue, recently received professional training regarding its origins and effects, it’s a horrid creation, but sadly used too often, we hear tales of users substituting it for heroin and injecting, and those thinking it in crystal form was crack and being hospitalised, I too through circumstance have been homeless, but unlike yourself I have used recreational drugs, but would never touch synthetics.

    1. Thank you Adrian, for your honesty and it’s a great work you do with the street kitchen. Every Saturday morning, when I pass the same homeless fella opposite Oxford Road station I pop into Sainsbury’s and buy him a sandwich for his breakfast. He’s one of the luckier street people, he isn’t alleviating his days with drug use, but it’s becoming more commonplace now, sadly.

  2. Having been homeless through circumstances that could have been avoided, I’m am happy to say I’ve never taken so call reacreational drugs. I am on certain medications that are supposed to be keeping me healthy. Warfarin one of them, epilepsy drugs another one, which I am slowly weaning myself off even though the doctor didn’t change them. Having broken my right arm twice and being right handed

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