One substance cited has been spice, a synthetic cannabinoid available for as little as £2, which takes effect within five to ten minutes and lasts for up to five hours, leaving users either collapsed on pavements or in a zombie-like upright position.
Synthetic cannabinoids, a former legal high, are illegal and designated as Class B drugs and although people who are found with the drug on them can be arrested for possession, users often ingest the substance quickly.
Another form of the drug, known as ‘monkey dust’, has become more prominent in South Yorkshire and although cases in Barnsley are said to be minimal, officers have been put on high alert by Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner.
A report said: “As part of its work programme, the council’s overview and scrutiny committee agreed to undertake a task and finish group investigation into substance misuse in Barnsley.
“Given the heightened profile of substance misuse both locally and nationally, the committee felt it was an opportune time to undertake work in this area.
“The investigation sought to better understand the extent of substance misuse in Barnsley, the challenges being faced by services in tackling this, including community safety and enforcement as well as provision of support services for young people and adults.
“A number of ‘check and challenge’ sessions were done with officers regarding the work being carried out and future plans. This involved asking questions of them regarding their work, their involvement and partnership working with other agencies including the impact of this on Barnsley residents.”
Meetings have taken place with council officers responsible for the commissioning of substance misuse services, visit to help hubs at Burleigh Court in the town centre and The Factory in the Dearne, as well as South Yorkshire Police.
One of the investigation’s recommendations is for the borough’s schools to deliver health education from 2020 relating to substance misuse.
“Part of this education is around risks and keeping safe, of which substance misuse forms a part,” the report said. “The government has not currently been prescriptive as to how this curriculum should be delivered.
“While we recognise the importance of substance misuse prevention work being delivered in schools it should be noted that as a council we have no direct control over how schools choose to deliver the personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) curriculum.
“However, we are working with school leaders to influence the content of the curriculum through a PSHE network.
“In addition, we are developing an online hub of resources to support schools. This will contain a section on evidence-based substance misuse resources that would be suitable for use in schools.
“The officer leading on this piece of work will continue to work in partnership with the Barnsley Schools Alliance and other key partners to highlight the importance of substance misuse prevention and education and will feedback progress as this work develops.”
Dr Billings added: “It’s been a notoriously difficult issue to solve but these people who take substances are obviously very sad and vulnerable.
“Disrupting the supply chain is obviously beneficial and then rehabilitating users is the key.
“It’s a time-consuming thing for officers whose duty it is to look after abusers if they are found on the street, but there has to be better joined-up working with other agencies including the police, hospitals and councils.”