UK Prisons: Spice addiction twice as likely upon release

UK Prisons - Spice

According to the 2017 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 106 countries reported the emergence of 739 difference psychoactive substances between 2009 and 2016. The market continues to be dynamic and is characterised by the emergence of large numbers of new substances belonging to diverse chemical groups.

Although the figures mentioned above are based on global research, psychoactive substances are continuing to cause serious problems for UK prisons. Despite the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act in May 2016, the illegal drugs are still widely available and easy to produce, resulting in ever-growing quantities infiltrating into UK prisons.


Recent reports have highlighted how prisoners are now twice as likely to leave prison addicted to Spice when they leave than before they enter. Dr George Ryan, a leading expert who works for Public Health England, stated that use of the drug was behind an ‘explosion of violence in prisons, causing deaths, bullying and violence.

Recent tests conducted on prisoners urine from 10 prisons in north west England showed around 8% of prisoners tested positive for Spice on arrival, but this figure doubled to 16% on release. It is the ease at which Spice can be gained in prison that has caused such dramatic increases and accidents. Spice can take many different forms, and it is this flexibility that users have taken advantage of. Spice in liquid form can be sprayed on too objects such as regular tobacco – which most UK prisons allow.


Other drugs, such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin all witnessed reductions during prison sentences. The statistics reveal that just one in 100 prisoners tested positive for cocaine on release compared to one in four on arrival. It is the ready availability, cheap price and difficulty to detect that makes Spice attractive to prisoners in comparison to other substances such as those mentioned above.

Home Office figures show that two thirds of all drugs seized in prisons are for psychoactive substances – and 99% of these are Spice. Furthermore, in the first 10 months of 2015, officers at HMP Forest Bank near Manchester seized 4.4kg of Spice. This in comparison with seizure statistics for other drugs, cocaine (114g) and heroin (21g) show just how much quantities are entering UK prisons. Spice at present is only considered a problem in male adult prisons, although there have been some reports of incidents in youth offender and female prisons.

Mortality figures from Prisons and Probation Ombudsman show 79 were known or strongly suspected to have been using Spice or similar psychoactive substances dies in prisons between June 2013 and September 2016.

About Randox Testing Services

Randox Testing Services is at the forefront of developing tests to detect the presence of psychoactive substances. One example of this is that the world’s first synthetic cannabinoid detection ‘Spice’ test was developed at Randox.

In the endless pursuit of creating innovative tests for new and emerging psychoactive substances, our expertise sets us apart from the rest of the industry. We provide tests for identifying psychoactive substances and operate to provide accurate results and customer information.

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