The use of class A drugs like ketamine appears to be rising in Hampshire – but the police and county council are trying to crack down on county lines dealers.
Hampshire County Council said through its substance misuse treatment, the the public health service is seeing the use of synthetic opiates such as fentanyl and ketamine rising in the county.
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine.
During last week’s Hampshire County Council cabinet meeting, concerns were raised about the high drug misuse despite all the “good work” that the county is doing to prevent and support the use of these substances.
Director of adults’ health Graham Allen said that the work done by the Hampshire Constabulary and the county council focuses on disrupting the drug business model in the local authority and reducing drug use, with a focus on county lines, where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another.
Mr Allen said: “What we’ve got in terms of county lines is a clear priority for us; it has been for a number of years in terms of disruption to what is effectively a business model which operates across the country in terms of drug delivery mechanisms for local areas.
“Alongside that work, it is about disruption and stopping drugs supplying demand; some of the actions that are then taken forward are in terms of reducing the use of drugs.
“There’s some great work taking place. We’ve got teams working between the local authority and the Hampshire Constabulary regarding county lines disruption routes and supporting young people, and others caught up in it.
“There is a range of criminal activity associated with that. That’s why we’ve got a focus on county lines.”
Mr Allen said the use of drug trends has changed over time, and with the change of business, different synthetic opiates are starting to appear in the county such as ketamine and fentanyl.
He said: “Beyond that, in terms of the drug’s substance misuse issues, there is continuing concern in terms of drug misuse across the country, not only here in Hampshire.
“What we have seen, not only through the disruption of some of those drug channels mechanisms through county lines but also through some of the work we do through our public health service in terms of substance misuse treatment is drug use in harm changing.
“Is a very dynamic range of risk issues based on a whole number of different factors, including social and economic trends, as referred to drug dealing as a business model of sorts. We have seen some issues in availability and price; they fluctuate, and the risk fluctuates as a result.
“There is work taking place to reduce the incidents of the use of opiates and crack cocaine, but we then see other drugs starting to come to the fore, for example, ketamine, fentanyl and other synthetic opiates.
“Some of these result from what is happening in faraway places. So, disruption to opium production in Afghanistan is then brought forward by synthetic opiates.
“There is a huge amount of attention, not only county lines but disruption and then indeed support for substance misuse.”
National stats show 4,859 deaths related to drug poisoning were registered in 2021 in England and Wales; of those, 2,219 involved opiates, an increase to 61 percent when excluding deaths that had no drug type recorded on the death certificate.
Heroin and morphine continued to be the most frequently mentioned opiates, with 1,213 drug-poisoning deaths. Cocaine deaths rose for the tenth consecutive year; 840 deaths were recorded as a result of misuse.
The figures also indicate that in 2021, there were 663 deaths involving methadone, used to treat heroin dependence, which is 28.5 percent higher than the previous year.