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Merseyside Police, St Helens Council, St Helens RLFC and the NHS have joined forces to warn young people of the dangers of ketamine use.
Authorities have seen an increase in young people using ketamine in St Helens and enquiries have established that young people are being exploited to use and sell the drug, which has led to associated criminality and anti-social behaviour.
In response, St Helens Local Police and the Merseyside Police Child Exploitation Team have run two separate ketamine and exploitation weeks of action, with the latest concluding on Friday (15 July).
They have helped educate young people on the risks as well as gathering information to identify those targeting vulnerable people, and disrupting criminality through stop checks and arrests.
It ended with pupils at St Augustine of Canterbury Catholic High School performing their own play to warn other students of the health risks of ketamine use and the signs someone you know may be taking the drug.
The performance forms part of a competition set up by St Helens Community Inspector Stacey Pope, who challenged schools in the area to perform a play or song to educate pupils about the issues, with the chance of winning £500. The initiative will involve more St Helens secondary schools after the summer break, with the competition closing in October.
Insp Pope said: “Ketamine is a dangerous and highly addictive Class B illegal drug that can prove fatal, particularly if it’s mixed with other drugs.
“It can make users confused, agitated, delirious and disconnected from reality and unable to recognise risk, as well as feeling sick. It can also damage your short and long term memory.
“Users have complained of abdominal pain and have suffered serious bladder, kidney and liver problems. Some of the damage caused can be irreversible, meaning long term health problems.
“We have seen our young people in St Helens put at risk of these health issues by ruthless drug dealers who have peddled this drug knowing full well the impact it can have.
“We will not tolerate people risking the health and wellbeing of young people in our borough, and are working with partners across the board to ensure offenders are identified and brought to justice, while at the same time helping educate young people on the very real dangers of taking ketamine.”
Merseyside Police is working with the Young People’s Drugs & Alcohol Team, health services, Safer Communities and the Children’s Care Youth Offending Team to provide a multi-agency response to the issue to take opportunities to support vulnerable people and educate them.
Insp Pope added: “As well as educating our communities and raising awareness, enforcement of those callous offenders who are peddling the drug is key.
“During the weeks of action we have conducted warrants to arrest suspects and carried out land searches in areas where we believe ketamine may be dealt and stored.
“The force drone unit has been deployed to check areas where the dealing and taking of ketamine is reported to have been happening, while police off road bikes and quad bikes have patrolled parks and areas of open land where it is also alleged to have taken place.
“Specialist drugs dogs have deployed to identify where it is being stored and on operations at St Helens bus station as we believe dealers may be using the public transport system to transport the drug, and we have conducted roadside stops of vehicles to disrupt those using the roads to transport the drug.
“We also delivered hundreds of letters to homes in key locations and outreach workers used information cards to engage with youths and explain the dangers of ketamine.”
Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said: “Health and community safety partners are growing increasingly concerned by recent signs that ketamine use is rising, especially among younger drug users.
“Ketamine is addictive and is associated with a variety of serious health risks that not everyone who uses the drug may be aware of. For some young people this may become a life-long or irreversible condition, meaning they will have serious health problems for the rest of their lives. It’s just not worth the risk.”
Steve Leonard, Saints Community Development Foundation’s Director added: “The need for every person in our communities to get the message about the dangers of ketamine is vital.
“Our own children are making decisions that could have catastrophic consequences on their future health. Let’s help them all make the right decisions based on the knowledge we have of the dangers of ketamine and all illegal drugs.”
If you believe ketamine is being dealt in your area, please contact Merseyside Police on Twitter @MerpolCC or on Facebook ‘Merseyside Police Contact Centre’. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you are concerned about your own or other’s use of ketamine, or other drugs or alcohol, then please contact the relevant service.
For under 19s, contact the Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Team on 01744 675605 or visit www.sthelens.gov.uk/ypdaat
For adults aged 19 and over contact CGL on 01744 410752 or visit www.changegrowlive.org