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UK cities risk turning into 'drug-ravaged' San Francisco due to changes in illegal drug market, police chief warns
19 December 2023, 22:49
Major UK cities, including London, risk turning into 'drug-ravaged' San Francisco due to ongoing changes in the illegal drug market, a top police chief has warned.
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Donna Jones, chairwoman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, has warned the UK could be in for an epidemic of drug overdoses, as is occurring in California.
Areas across San Francisco have seen huge death spikes, particularly among the homeless community, many of whom overdose on the streets.
Ms Jones warned it was "inevitable" that London and other UK cities could face a similar spike due to the shortage of heroin.
Last year, the Taliban banned poppy farming in Afghanistan, which has affected global supply.
"That will completely dry up the heroin supply down to Africa and up through Europe over the next 12 months, which means the Chinese synthetic opioid market is going to explode," she said.
"It’s already happening in America, and heroin addicts in America are dying in their plenty because synthetic opioids like fentanyl are literally 50 times stronger than street heroin. And it is so tragic.”
The synthetic opioids, known as nitazenes, are understood to have been imported into the UK from China.
As a result, drug poisoning deaths in England and Wales are at their highest level in three decades, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.
Around half of the 4,907 deaths in the UK are related to opiates, the data suggests.
“The Chinese gangs have been keeping a close eye on the supply of heroin around the world and have clearly seen an opportunity to exploit the market with a massive explosion in synthetic opioids,” Ms Jones added.