Cheshire Constabulary will make its debut appearance in the next series of 999: What’s Your Emergency?.
The third series in the Channel 4 documentary launched on Monday, July 4 with a dramatic episode focusing on the work of call handlers at the North West Ambulance Service.
The first programme to feature the work of Cheshire police officers will be broadcast on Monday, July 11 at 9pm on Channel 4.
This episode shows the devastating effects that so call ‘legal highs’ can have on users in one community and the huge strain their use is putting on already stretched emergency services. It airs in the wake of the Government’s Psychoactive Substances Act, which came into force on May 26 and made the sale of ‘legal highs’ illegal.
These synthetic psychoactive drugs are being sold openly in high street shops and on the internet and have flooded the market. Many people see them as a cheap and legal alternative to illegal drugs.
Twenty-five years ago, a 999 call about someone taking drugs was a rare event. Nowadays there’s at least one call every shift. And in the last year the number of people seeking treatment because of new psychoactive substances has tripled.
In Warrington, PC Karl Dickin is one of eight officers sent to detain a male in his 20s who had taken a cocktail of illegal and legal drugs and is acting erratically. “On the legal highs they just turn into monsters,” says PC Dickin.
“You’re dealing with someone with superhuman strength, they don’t feel pain, it’s like a zombie.”
‘Spice’, one of the most popular legal highs, is marketed as a synthetic alternative to cannabis, but can come with far more serious side effects. Another, ‘Pandora’s box’, is a fraction of the cost of weed, but some users say has withdrawal symptoms to rival crack or heroin.
“It’s like Dawn of the Dead…like something you’d see on computer games where you’ve got zombies walking in the streets,” says paramedic Stewart Beattie. “They’re treating themselves as human guinea pigs. They haven’t got a clue what it is, where it’s from, who’s made it, what’s in it. Would you do that? I certainly wouldn’t.”
In the programme, police and ambulance staff try to help people who’ve suffered the consequences of taking legal highs, including a regular user found coughing up blood in a bus stop, a grandfather who’s had a bad reaction to legal highs he bought off the internet, plus a young woman who seeks sanctuary in a kebab shop after a party where legal highs were taken, turned violent.