For many years, Spice was only a problem on the streets in the UK, but as the “legal highs” addicted a down-and-out population, a drug problem of epidemic proportions hit the streets. Now, cannabinoid drugs are outlawed, and it appears the synthetic drug crisis has infiltrated the prison system as well.

Soon, there was a problem with the prisons overflowing, with many people pointing at drugs like K2 and Spice, which both contain cathinone, a type of cannabinoid that’s much stronger and more dangerous than marijuana.

Before 2010, in England and Wales, cathinones could be bought in “head shops.” Their use on the street quickly became a crisis, and the Parliament acted quickly to reclassify drugs like K2 and Spice as Class B drugs. Around the same time, “monkey dust”, a drug that Americans know as “bath salts” became popular in the UK as well. Monkey Dust sold for as little as two pounds for a package. Spice, since outlawed, costs about twenty-five pounds.

And just like in America, both synthetic marijuana and bath salts were causing devastating effects. Small towns and cities dealt with dozens of overdoses in 2017, and people on the street are addicted. Some commit crimes that send them to jail or prison. Headlines tell raw tales of hallucinations and gruesome crimes that have been committed by Spice users.

Now, the Acting Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), Elizabeth Moody, says that the crisis that put so many in jail has found its way behind bars as well. Inmates are dying from the synthetic drugs that are widespread on the street.

Moody told the media at a press conference the specific: “It’s completely out of control now in prisons – it’s so readily available. Prisons are struggling with the consequences of bad batches of psychoactive substances, which can result in simultaneous multiple collapses of prisoners, unsustainable demand on prison resources, ambulances queuing up at the prison gate and, all too often, death.” She also called for a national strategy to tackle the problem. She ways that prisons are struggling to stop the flow of contraband. The drugs are in high demand. People overdose accidentally but sometimes on purpose, too. Most of the overdoses result in death, which is unnecessary. Narcan has been found to reverse some synthetic drug overdoses, but often can take more than one bottle.

The ombudsman worries that there are drug problems in institutions that are outside the justice system as well, such as immigration removal centers. Her report offered ideas for better handling of the synthetic drug crisis within the justice system.