A MAJOR alert has been issued by health chiefs after it was discovered a more powerful brand of ‘spice’ had led to several overdoses in Blackburn.

Public health bosses say a strain of the synthetic cannabis drug, which can render users immobile, has been implicated in a number of medical emergencies in the town.

Homeless people are especially susceptible, according to Public Health England (PHE), and there have been repeated complaints over people left like ‘zombies’ in the town centre after taking spice.

Cllr Damian Talbot, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s public health and wellbeing boss, said: “It’s very worrying. The issue with spice has been well publicised over the last 18 months.

“It is a significantly dangerous material. If there’s stronger strains out there, the long-term effects are not yet clear. Our advice is to stay clear of spice.

“The nature of the drug is changing all the time we are forever getting to grips with the different strains and now the strengths.

“Our advice is to stay clear and that is also a message to all illegal drugs and so called ‘legal substances’ of this nature.

“You do not know the quality of the contents of the substance.

“If you are unsure about what you are taking then consult the authorities.

“We can offer advice to people and support.”

In a bulletin from RIDR (Report Ilicit Drugs Reactions) issued by the public health agency, overdose cases have been reported in several major centres, including Blackburn.

According to the report: “Over the last three months, spice often reported as being ‘stronger’ than previously in circulation has been implicated in overdoses in Blackburn, Newcastle, Bristol, Greater Manchester and Sheffield.”

But health officials are still waiting for evidence to confirm that the compounds found in the newest strains of spice are in fact more hazardous then previous known versions of the drug.

The drugs alerts are issued quarterly by PHE, based on intelligence from health bodies, police and treatment agencies, and problems with spice overdoses have been identified previously in Blackburn by their researchers.

In the report, PHE experts advise: “Formulations are frequently changing, meaning that harms are difficult to predict.

“Current evidence suggests the harms from (synthetic cannabis) are often very different to those seen with herbal cannabis.”

Some of the problems associated with the drug can include a racing heart-rate, delirium, seizures, kidney damage, anxiety, mood disorders, symptoms associated with psychosis and even collapse, say PHE experts.

Last year images of two men and a woman, in a state of semi-consciousness in King Street, Blackburn, caused a national controversy.