THIS was the scene in Bolton town centre this afternoon when a homeless man collapsed after apparently smoking the 'zombie' drug Spice.
Friends of the man said he had taken ‘just three drags’ from a discarded butt before collapsing unconscious just off Victoria Square.
A paramedic was able to bring him around and asked him if he needed further medical assistance, which he declined.
And the medic told The Bolton News that while Spice was ‘rife’ in Manchester it was also becoming a big problem in our town.
He said: “It’s just so readily available. I have seen this guy before.
“The thing is there’s no antidote to it. If someone has taken heroin we can do something to reverse the effects, but with Spice there’s nothing that can be done.
“Half the time we don’t have a clue what we’re dealing with. There’s no list of ingredients, but generically it’s known as Spice.”
He added that incidents involving the drug – which reduces users to a zombie-like state – are now an everyday occurrence.
And he said that the problem currently seems to be restricted to in and around Bolton town centre, although users of the drug are not always homeless.
The disturbing incident comes after Greater Manchester (GMP) revealed they had dealt with dozens of calls linked to use of the substance over the weekend.
The force was called out to no fewer than 58 Spice-related calls in less than three days, with senior officers saying the epidemic gripping the city centre was putting services under huge pressure.
Chief Superintendent Wasim Chaudhry, from GMP's City Centre team, says the force is doing all it can to tackle the issue.
He said: “This is a problem that we cannot afford to get any worse.
"We have increased the number of specially trained officers to try and combat the issues and help those using Spice to access the support they need but to also ensure that danger of Spice is clearly communicated.
"Those who take spice are often left incapacitated or seriously ill and need the help of our partners in the NHS and Ambulance Service. They can also become aggressive and become a danger to themselves and others.
"The truth is, tackling the issues caused by Spice is putting pressure on public services and is taking up a lot of our resources. Particularly in Manchester city centre.”
He added that a multi-agency approach was the way forward with GMP linking up with Manchester City Council and rough sleeper teams and charities as well asNorth West Ambulance Service and the NHS to combat the problem.
The drug known as Spice has made national headlines in recent months
Responding to the events in Manchester over the weekend, Liberal Democrat Manchester Mayoral candidate Jane Brophy said: "This incredibly addictive substance is having a devastating impact on Greater Manchester. It isn't just an issue in Manchester city centre, it is happening right across our region.
"Spice users tend to be extremely vulnerable, with many homeless and suffering from mental health issues. These people need our help, simply criminalising them won't solve this crisis.
"But there is no quick fix. We have to tackle the root causes of homelessness, including mental health issues, addiction and domestic abuse.
"As Mayor I will invest more in rehabilitation services to ensure users get the treatment they need. We cannot afford to simply ignore this crisis and hope it will go away."
What is spice?
SPICE is a mix of herbs and man-made chemicals and is often called synthetic weed or fake weed because it being similar to marijuana.
It is often taken by smoking but the effects of it are often much stronger than marijuana and it can potentially cause death.
Other side-effects of taking Spice include causing extreme anxiety as well as paranoia and sometimes hallucinations.
The drug can also increase the heart rate, cause vomiting and result in violent behaviour.
The ban on legal highs criminalised the production, distribution, sale and supply of certain psychoactive substances.
It was introduced last year after worries over an increase in the number of deaths caused by legal highs and also an increase in violence in prisons.