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Several schoolchildren have been hospitalised after vaping fake cannabis oil laced with Spice, a report has found - with teachers saying they knew ‘something was wrong’ when they saw kids were ‘collapsing’.
As reported by the Manchester Evening News, researchers for the Greater Manchester Testing and Research on Emergent and New Drugs report were told how 10ml bottles of e-liquids supposed to contain THC (the main psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the high) were being sold on Snapchat for as little as £10 - a fraction of the price of genuine cannabis oil products, which often sell for around £40-£60.
When two THC e-liquids connected to the hospitalisations of youngsters in Trafford and Bury were tested, neither contained any cannabis product. However, both were found to contain synthetic cannabinoids used to make spice.
According to the report, which was published this month, one occasion saw three children rushed to hospital by ambulance after collapsing at a Rochdale school, having vaped supposed cannabis oil.
The school's headteacher told the report: "We had to have them blue lighted to hospital at the time.
"So I knew, when these kids were collapsing, I knew obviously something was wrong and I knew that they couldn’t just be taking something that they thought that they bought from a shop that's supposedly had cannabis in or something like that."
The report, which also said a 15-year-old boy from Trafford was hospitalised, found that while cannabis vape usage among children was still low, the 'availability and use' was expanding across Greater Manchester.
A health service manager in Oldham said: "There has been [an] increase in referrals stating vape use.
"We have seen an increase in A&E attendances that states 'vape unknown substance' symptoms that suggest they have vaped Spice."
A specialist nurse who works in North East of Greater Manchester added: "We have seen an increase in vapes in the last 12 months. Vapes containing THC, synthetic cannabinoids, CBD… the young people don't know or understand what is in them, but they have caused extreme intoxication or collapse.
"It's not huge numbers [involving vapes], 26 out of 270, but that's 26 we had not been previously seeing in a year before."
There were reports of children as young as 12 and 13 smoking cannabis vapes, but researchers said it is most common among 15-16-year-olds.
A headteacher in Rochdale said: "It was the upper age range in secondary school, so from Year 9 onwards, 14-16 [year-olds] ... We've found that it's popular in the upper range, especially because it's not seen as cannabis, it's not seen as smoking."
Bev Hughes, deputy mayor for policing, crime and criminal justice, said: "Greater Manchester is leading the way and the GM TRENDS research is the first of its kind in the UK. This approach helps us to understand drug trends across the city-region and raise awareness of potential risks.
"The recommendations made in the report are intended to inform policy making, protect people and support professionals working with people who use drugs.
"We will continue to work with partners on the recommendations made in the report, with targeted work such as Operation Cranium helping to prevent the use and sale of counterfeit medication. I receive regular updates from GMP and know officers are working hard to stamp out the illicit sale of drugs."
Snap, the company that owns Snapchat, said it adds ‘extra protections’ for its younger users.
A spokesperson said: "Using Snapchat to buy or sell drugs is strictly against our rules.
"We actively look for and ban accounts and search terms associated with drug dealing and use industry leading technology to find drug content.
"We also partner with organisations like Frank to provide in-app information about the danger of drugs.
"Snapchat is private by default - you must accept someone before they can message you, and we add extra protections for younger users to stop strangers contacting them.
"There will always be people who try to evade our rules, that’s why tackling this behaviour continues to be a priority."
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