Many people see substance abuse as something which goes on behind closed doors.
Movies such as Trainspotting have given us an image of abuse taking place in private, often squalid places.
But the 21st century reality is very different. In Blackpool, cannabis is openly smoked on the Promenade. And on the streets of the town centre, in the shadow of the Tower, a far more sinister story is unfolding.
Until recently Spice was only recognised as a problem within the prison population.
But this cheap, high strength chemical cocktail is increasingly hard to ignore in our towns and cities.
Video emerged over the weekend of people, many appearing to be from Blackpool’s most vulnerable community, under the influence of the deadly drug.
Workers at businesses in the streets frequented by users tell of large groups gathered in doorways and alleyways, their usage blatant, their behaviour unpredictable.
They say authorities are doing a good job in moving users away from their doorsteps.
But, as hard as those working to lift people out of addiction might try, it is still possible to see evidence of Spice use on the streets of Blackpool in the middle of a working day.
“They’ve been moved on,” one store owner in Deansgate tells me. “They’re down Talbot Road now, down the bottom end.They just move around three or four different spots.”
Abingdon Street, Topping Street and Deansgate are certainly quiet, but for a few shoppers and council workers darting between town and their smart glass-fronted offices. But just a few hundred yards away in Queen Street, where one of the videos was shot, the scene is very different.
Turning the corner from Dickson Road the eye is immediately drawn to a man and a woman.
One produces a king size cigarette paper and begins rolling. It isn’t clear what the substance being prepared is but as the pair walk behind me down the street it is clear their focus is on the cigarette. There is no sense the pair are a danger.
Spice, after all, is so cheap there is no need for the kind of acquisitive crime associated with heroin or crack addiction.
They stop in a doorway at the rear of a well known store.
Within minutes the impact of what has been smoked becomes apparent.
The woman, who although looking tired and weighed down with bags had been talking quite normally with her friend, was slumped forward, frozen to the spot.
It was as if a switch had been flicked, turning off the life in her. Her male friend remained in the doorway, still standing but barely aware of his surroundings.
All this was taking place on a street less than five minutes walk from Blackpool’s tourist heartland.
Help is available
Support is available for people in Blackpool struggling with substance abuse.
If you need help or know somebody who does Blackpool Council’s drug and alcohol service can help.
Call (01253) 205156 or (01253) 340104 to get in direct contact with the team.
Support can start straight away.
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