As the UK looks to deal with a synthetic drug epidemic that is turning users into “zombies”, a local chemistry expert has warned that “it’s only a matter of time” before it hits Australian streets.
Confronting footage has emerged showing how "Spice", a synthetic marijuana or “fake weed”, has transformed the streets of Manchester into something resembling a horror film.
Spice users have been filmed passed out in their own vomit, turning blue, screaming in agony and wandering the streets unaware of their surroundings.
Up until recently the drug, which is considered more deadly than heroin, was only believed to be a problem in prisons, however its increasing popularity, low cost and addictive nature has seen it become a staple of the UK and the US drug scenes.
University of Western Australia Professor Matthew Piggott now fears it's a matter of when, not if, the deadly drug hits Australian streets.
“It’s just a matter of time [until it hits Australia], I can't see any reason why this would be different to any other drug,” Prof Piggott told 7 News Online.
“There’s not going to be the same investment by customs to go after such small quantities.”
Professor Piggott said drug users needed to know that the effects of synthetically manufactured drugs like Spice could be irreversible.
“You might turn into a zombie so to speak and sometimes you’ll come out okay but sometimes the effects might not be reversible,” he added.
“They just kill people, I just don’t know why anyone would take these drugs with no regard for their safety.”
Much like marijuana, Spice is smoked in cigarette papers, however what makes up the synthetic cannabinoids remains relatively unknown.
“They have never been tested on humans before,” Prof Piggott said.
“You’re pretty much a guinea pig and when it comes to testing guinea pigs, sometimes they might just kill you outright.”
“Companies in China claim they are making them for research purposes but in fact they’re manufacturing for human consumption, which is illegal."
Professor Piggott said the message needs to get out there that just because you might have taken one kind of drug, does not mean your body can automatically handle something completely different, like Spice.
"This is not marijuana, people should not think because they have smoked marijuana that they aren’t going to have any effects from the synthetic cannabinoids," he told 7 News Online.
"It is just too big of a risk to take."
Watch Seven News on Thursday night to see how police plan to confront the new killer drug.