PUBLIC health chiefs have issued a warning over vulnerable people turning to controversial drugs ‘up to 10,000 times stronger’ than heroin.

Councillors on the building stronger communities policy committee discussed a report on the public space protection order (PSPO) for new psychoactive substances (NPS) on Wednesday.

Author of the document Cathy Fitzgerald, head of the substance misuse and commissioning development service, told members many substances aim to ‘mimic the effects’ of illegal drugs.

She also said she has ‘never seen anything like’ the drug ‘spice’ before highlighting its alarming impact on areas across the country.

“Some of these drugs can be up to 10,000 times stronger than street heroin,” she added.

“I think what we decided, through different processes, is to continue the PSPO because we never know when these NPS are suddenly going to appear.

“There might be a new one that arrives tomorrow in the town and, at least, it gives us something in the back pocket as a tool to use should that happen.”

Councillors were also informed that the authority believes drug supply is coming into Warrington from Manchester.

In 2017, psychoactive substances were banned from sections of Warrington as part of a clampdown by the police and council.

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A 12-month PSPO was introduced for the town centre and nearby areas in Bewsey, Whitecross, Fairfield and Howley.

It allowed the police to confiscate any substances, with those in breach of the order also facing a potential fixed penalty notice of up to £100, or £1,000 following a prosecution.

But, since the order was brought in, several issues have changed.

Many NPS, including spice, are now classified within the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as a class B drug.

And the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 ensured it was illegal to supply, which made it impossible to buy NPS in shops and stores.

It is understood spice remains the main NPS used in the town centre but, as part of a review, it has been noted that other drugs may appear in the future.

A review process has recommended the PSPO remains in place, in case any future arrangements are needed for ’emerging’ substances.

Cllr Steve Wright (LAB – Bewsey and Whitecross) also highlighted the ‘county lines’ operations orchestrated by organised crime gangs.

He said: “It is not part of this report but that is something that is really concerning me.

“Some of the things I am hearing from professionals about what happens to people and what tactics they use is horrific.”