Police warn of M-Cat 'epidemic' among young people in East Riding
POLICE are warning of a drug "epidemic" among young people in villages and towns in the East Riding.
Young people aged 14 and 17 are being caught in possession of mephedrone, known as M-Cat, in villages including Brough and Willerby.
Now, Humberside Police is appealing for East Riding communities to help them catch the dealers pushing the drugs on to young people before someone takes an overdose.
PC Andy White, of the Willerby, Kirk Ella and Anlaby neighbourhood policing team, believes the problem with the Class B drug has increased in the past few weeks.
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He said: "There seems to be a bit of an M-Cat epidemic in the area.
"It is difficult to pin down the dealers but it seems to be an issue with 14 to 17-year-olds.
"The drug seems very accessible for that age group and intelligence leads us to believe it is rife in the area."
Neighbourhood police officers have held a meeting with concerned parents, who suspect their children could be using the drug, after noticing a spike in seizures of M-Cat in recent weeks.
One mother, who attended the meeting, said her 15-year-old son had been transformed into a "Jekyll and Hyde" character by snorting the drug regularly.
The woman, who asked not to be named, told the Mail: "It seems to be something that has exploded in the area. Since Christmas, the drug has taken hold of him.
"At some points, he is angry and almost psychotic. He can be extremely difficult to control physically when he is angry.
"He is also very agitated and doesn't seem to sleep. During the night, he prowls around the house and sometimes climbs outside his bedroom window.
"He keeps us up all night."
The drug, formerly sold as plant food, is used as an alternative for amphetamine or harder drugs and is snorted by users.
In January 2010, a 17-year-old student from Woldgate College collapsed after he took the drug during his lunch break.
Concerns over its effect saw the drug outlawed in April 2010.
Possible side effects from snorting the drug include turning blue and feeling cold at the extremities, pains in the chest, throat and nose and suffering nosebleeds.
PC White said: "A small bag of cocaine will cost you £40. The same size of M-Cat will cost about £10.
"It is a big worry. The people using it don't know what they are snorting up their noses."
At the meeting held at Brough Police Station last week, one mother revealed her son has started using M-Cat dozens of times a day.
Another mother said her son would visit Hull to buy the drug if he could not find a dealer in their town.
She said: "We think he is buying it in Brough and when he can't get it in Brough, he is going on train into Hull.
"It seems to be easy to get hold of.
"He's stopped eating and has lost quite a bit of weight.
"M-Cat is an addiction for him."
PCSO Barbara Danby, of Brough neighbourhood policing team, described the meeting as "very positive" and showed families the police were taking their concerns very seriously.
She said: "Some of the parents felt as though they were on their own.
"We are going to continue working with the community in a bid to find out who the dealers are.
"There are concerns one of the kids will overdose.
"We don't know what it is in the drugs.
"I don't think the users understand the possible consequences."
The Brough mother fears the problem is getting worse, with more families being drawn into the web of drug abuse.
She said: "I can see the problem in the area getting worse.
"It is having a massive impact on the family.
"My son is even selling off his possessions to pay for the drug. We are having to lock some things up."
The mother said she had heard one teenager had a fit and collapsed after taking M-Cat.
She said: "It is very worrying.
"I think the problem in Brough could be helped if there was some kind of youth centre.
"People are bored and some kind of facility might help prevent things like this happening. There are no facilities in the town."
Nationally, the drug is proving a problem, with some studies claiming it has become more popular since it was banned.
The UK Border Agency made 54 seizures of 139kg of mephedrone in England and Wales in 2010-11.
Police forces made a further 1,946 seizures to take a total of 92kgs, 399 litres, 2,911 doses and 1,172 wraps or bags of the drug off the streets.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: "Mephedrone is a harmful drug.
"The ban on mephedrone has enabled the law enforcement agencies to take action to seize the drug at our borders and on our streets.
"It has also sent out a clear message to young people about the risks of taking mephedrone."