Manchester youth worker’s book reveals impact of spice drug

The Spice Boys shows homeless at high risk

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Peter Morgan

A Manchester youth support worker who has witnessed first hand how spice is ravaging homeless communities has written his debut novel – which documents the rise of the former legal high in the city.

Peter Morgan hopes his book, The Spice Boys, will give an insight into the underlying reasons why 95 per cent of Manchester’s homeless population are said to be in thrall to the highly addictive synthetic drug. He is donating 10 per cent of the profits to Depaul UK, the homeless charity he works for.

“I wanted people to know what’s going on with the young spice user on the street – how they got from A to Z,” said Morgan. “People are dying because of this drug. There’s no trying to make it fancy, like ecstasy or cocaine.

“In 10 years time, we’ll look at this in the same way as the heroin epidemic of the eighties and nineties. Young women and men are selling themselves for sex to get spice. Users are complaining of unbearable bone ache, and that it’s harder to withdraw than heroin.”

Inspired by spice murder

The plot concerns a year in the life of four young people in Manchester’s homeless tent community, and highlights how spice use is rampant in youth hostels, childcare homes, prison and on the streets.

Morgan was partly inspired by the murder of Daniel Smith last year, a homeless 23 year old beaten to death by two spice-addled friends, who then set fire to his tent to dispose of the evidence. He had worked with Smith on the Your Chance programme, supporting young homeless people into employment.

“I and others who worked with him still battle with the fact Daniel Smith’s life ended in those circumstances because of that drug,” said Morgan.

Passes time and blocks trauma

“When they battered him, they pissed on him and thought it was funny. That shows how much spice distorts people’s minds.”

Morgan referred to seeing “spice cliques” across Manchester. “A lot are based in car parks because the security cameras make them feel safer – and they fear being set on fire asleep if they live in the tent community, where people now sleep with pocket knives to slice themselves out,” he added.

Spice’s appeal among the prison and homeless population is that it blocks out the trauma of their circumstances and makes time pass faster. But academic research into why people take spice, which has become an umbrella term for a group of substances known as synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists, is limited. Morgan’s fiction offers an insight.

He writes about “alphas” – members of the tent community who deal spice as well as use it, and about teenagers as young as 15 who are involved in the supply chain as runners.

“There’s homeless kids turning over two grand this weekend in the city centre, staying in hotels. For them, it’s a great culture to be around,” he said.

Morgan’s book was written prior to the banning of spice under the Psychoactive Substances Act in May 2016, and subsequent upgrade to class B under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Call for treatment centre

“I could have written another three books since then,” he said. “It’s become more dangerous to be a spice user. A young seller got stabbed in the leg because he wasn’t selling it fast enough.”

Having worked on the frontline, Morgan believes that spice impairs fertility and is lobbying for an official study.

“Girls in supported accommodation say spice is like the pill”, he claimed. “From my research, I have yet to find one girl in supported accommodation – where women are outnumbered four to one and will often regularly use sex to curry favour with those who have the most drugs – who has got pregnant while using spice. They don’t use the pill.

“We see women in homeless camps who’ve had every STI imaginable, yet are not pregnant.”

Morgan called for a centre where people addicted to spice can receive ongoing treatment as well as opportunities for skills and training.

He said: “We need prevention strategies – people going into prison weeks before someone’s released.

“We need money thrown at this problem – or there’s going to be an untold amount of deaths.”

The Spice Boys out now through Austin Macauley Publishers 

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