Use of spice and high-strength skunk could be linked to rise in hospital admissions for drug-related mental illness

Stock picture of ecstasy tablets. Photo: PA

Stock picture of ecstasy tablets. Photo: PA - Credit: PA

More than 1,500 admissions to hospital in Norfolk and Suffolk over the course of a year were due to drug-related mental illness, new figures revealed.

File photo of a person simulating taking the drug cocaine. Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA

File photo of a person simulating taking the drug cocaine. Photo: Matthew Fearn/PA - Credit: PA

NHS figures showed there were 951 admission episodes in Norfolk for mental illnesses or behaviour disorders where the main cause or a contributing factor was drugs, between April 2016 and March 2017 - a rise of 14pc from four years ago.

There were 765 admissions in Suffolk - a 24pc rise from four years ago.

Charities warned the high numbers could be down to high-strength cannabis and amphetamines, which they say can cause schizophrenia, depression and psychosis.

Danielle Hamm, from Rethink Mental Illness, said: 'Certain drugs have been known to prompt a mental illness for example strong cannabis known as skunk has been linked to schizophrenia.

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'We also know that using drugs when you have a mental health problem can complicate your recovery, and can increase the likelihood of self-harm and suicide.'

Those admitted may not be under any drug treatment service. However in Suffolk, where provider Turning Point was commissioned from 2015, rates decreased between 2015/16 and 2016/17.

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A spokesman for Turning Point said: 'At Turning Point we work extremely hard to engage with partner agencies to ensure people don't fall through the gaps.'

In Norfolk where treatment was run by the Norfolk Recovery Partnership (NRP) - a partnership between the region's mental health trust, charity the Matthew Project, and the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust - there were 136 more admissions in 2016/17 than the year before.

Denise Grimes, NRP service operations manager, said a rise in hospital admissions could be caused by a number of factors.

One, she said, was the increase in gangs dealing drugs in the region - including crack cocaine - which she said had caused 'an increase in the number of traumatic incidences for the vulnerable end user, causing significant acute mental health issues.

'Crack, for example, can have a significant impact on people's mental health issues which may pre-exist or be caused by the drugs, leading to psychotic symptoms and paranoia,' she added.

'NPS (legal highs), particularly 'Spice' can also result in a significant increase in mental health behavioural issues.

'Sadly, we see drug misuse is increasing right across the country, and so it is likely that we will continue to a rise in admissions linked to this within the NHS mental health services.'

A new provider will take over the service in Norfolk from April this year.

Of Norfolk's admissions, 645 were made by men and 306 by women. In Suffolk, 537 were made by men and 228 by women.

Drugs tended to be a contributing factor for mental health issues, rather than the main cause.

In Norfolk there were 98 cases where they were diagnosed as the primary reason for behaviour disorders, in Suffolk there were 60 cases.

The figures only indicate the number of admissions, not patients, and could include one patient who has been to hospital several times over the year.

New provider in Norfolk

Norfolk County Council has handed to drug and alcohol contract to a new charity Change, Grow, Live (CGL) from April this year.

CGL now provides nearly £50m worth of counselling, treatment and support services nationwide which were previously carried out by social services or the NHS.

But last week it was revealed CGL had abandoned scores of confidential files on young people in an empty office in Greater Manchester.

Landlord Peter Saunders discovered the files two weeks after CGL left, but he said the charity did not show any interest in collecting them until the Manchester Evening News investigated.

Kevin Crowley, CGL executive director, said: 'This has never happened before and we will be undertaking a full root and branch review to ensure that it can never happen again. In Norfolk we are working closely with the outgoing provider to transfer service user data securely using a paperless system. At all times, CGL takes the security of its data extremely seriously.'

Diane Steiner, deputy director of Public Health at Norfolk County Council added: 'CGL has reassured us that the protection of client's sensitive data is a top priority for them. We expect all of CGL's Norfolk staff to be fully trained in protecting client information and for secure data storage to be in place at all times – and CGL have confirmed this to us.

'While Norfolk's rate of hospital admissions in 2016/17 was lower than the England average, we are still working hard to reduce the ill-effects of drug use – for example by making the drug Naloxone (which counteracts opioid overdose) more widely available. CGL's new service will teach clients how to stay safe, with an added emphasis on recovery to help clients not to relapse, as well as focussing on clients' physical health. The new service will work closely with the three main hospitals in Norfolk to identify those at risk of drug use and provide an enhanced level of treatment in the community. '

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