The owner of a shop selling so-called legal highs in Rochdale has been arrested after nine people fell ill in the town just hours before a new ban comes into force. Police were first called to an address in Milnrow Road where a man in his 30s thought to have taken "Clockwork Orange" was found unconscious. He was taken to hospital where he is in an induced coma.
Police then went to an address in Oldham Road where a man in his 40s thought to have taken Pandora's Box had also collapsed. He was taken to hospital but discharged himself later. Another man was found nearby also unconscious having reportedly taken another legal high called "Kronic." A fourth man was also taken to hospital but is believed to have been conscious.
The two arrested men aged 61 and 34 are linked to a shop called Clear Vapour, which has closed as tests are being conducted to see if the drugs sold bore traces of anything illegal. One is thought to be the owner, the other an employee. It is unclear if those taken ill had purchased drugs at the shop.
Detective Insp Lee Hopwood of GMP's Rochdale Borough said: "Despite issuing warnings about the dangers of these so called 'legal highs', these are now the latest people to have been taken ill after taking them in the past few days. I cannot stress enough how dangerous they are and even though they might not be illegal, please do not take the risk.
"They can seriously harm you and in the case of these men they are now in hospital because of it. Please think about the effects these substances and do not take them. If you think someone you know might have taken 'legal highs' then please get medical attention immediately."
A nationwide ban on "legal highs" — psychoactive drugs — comes into force on 26 May 2016. After that date it will be a punishable offence to produce, supply, import or export any psychoactive substance. Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine are exempt from the new legislation, known as the Psychoactive Substances Act.
Legal highs are blamed on 144 deaths in 2014 alone, according to government figures. However in the same period some 8,000 people died from alcohol-related illness and around 100,000 from smoking-related illness.