THE emergence of the internet as a “shop front” for the importation of legal highs and banned substances is fuelling a new generation of designer drugs, experts have warned.
Police issued a warning last month after a student was left fighting for life and five others ended up in hospital following an overdose on illegal hallucinogenic drugs bought on the internet.
And, earlier this week, officers cautioned a student in his 20s from Jesmond, Newcastle, for trying to import 450grams of magic mushrooms via the internet.
Criminologists last night said crime- fighting agencies were facing an increasingly difficult task coping with a rocketing trend of students and drug-users turning to the web for banned substances.
Dr Nicole Westmarland, senior lecturer in criminology at Durham University, said: “This increase is concerning and people should be aware of taking banned substances from outside the country where new drugs are being developed.
“This is clearly an issue where the police are going to have to increase their skills in this area as more crime goes online and offences like this become more common.”
Last month, Newcastle University history student Kell Simm told how a fellow student foamed and bled from the mouth after taking an illegal internet drug at a party in Ripon Gardens, Jesmond.
The 21-year-old was one of six students who became ill after taking the illegal Class A drug 2CI, mistaking it for the less powerful, but similarly illegal drug 2CB. On Tuesday, officers from Northumbria Police and the UKBA intercepted a package of magic mushrooms destined for an address in Jesmond, Newcastle, at Heathrow Airport.
The container was seized and a Tyneside student, who police would only describe as in his 20s, was cautioned for attempting to possess a class A drug.
Officers said they were working to educate students, and revealed he had ordered the drugs online.
Neighbourhood Sgt Nicola Wearing said: “We take drug use extremely seriously and this man had ordered the items online for his own consumption, and this is totally unacceptable.
“He now has a caution in relation to this offence and this could have a serious detrimental impact on his future, not to mention the impact on his health.
“We have officers dedicated to working very closely with students in Newcastle to ensure they have the right advice and are aware of the impact drug use can have both on themselves and on others.”