PEOPLE have been warned are at risk of taking variants of the ‘Spice’ drug without realising it.

The alert comes as Blackburn with Darwen public health bosses released a new action plan to tackle the threat from so-called ‘legal highs’, banned by the Government last year.

It comes as police highlighted the damage being done by ‘Spice’ in central Manchester where officers were called to 58 incident over the weekend with many users reduced to a ‘zombie’ state.

The Blackburn with Darwen warning stresses the biggest danger comes from chemical cannabis substitutes of which ‘Spice’ is just one.

The action plan was sparked by incidents in the borough in 2015, including the early closure of Whitebirk’s Accrington Road Community Centre youth club because of ‘uncontrollable’ teenagers using the the substances.

A survey that year of 58 students at Blackburn College revealed 18 (31 per cent) admitted to using the substances which increased public health bosses' alarm.

A year ago the government outlawed previously ‘legal highs’ as the Psychoactive Substances Act made the production or supply of any mind-altering drug a crime regardless of whether its precise chemical composition was already illegal.

The new blueprint aims to be the basis of a future Lancashire-wide strategy.

The report states: “There was much confusion and little accurate knowledge about synthetic cannabinoids.

“Most knew the nickname ‘Spice’ and, although rarely used it, did not always equate this with the synthetic cannabinoid products they were using.”

Borough public health director Dominic Harrison said: “This strategy is about getting ahead of the curve.

“We have not had the scale of problems seen elsewhere but are aware of something we need to nip in the bud.

“Many of the young people at risk from synthetic cannabinoids similar to ‘Spice’, are not aware of the dangers."

Cllr Tony Humphrys, who represents the Whitebirk area, said: “Young people do not realise the effect on their mental health. I know the police are on to this locally.”

Cllr Mustafa Desai, the borough council's executive member for health, said: “We still feel it is important to lead the agenda locally to address this growing nationwide issue of concern.”