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25 March 2015, 06:10 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
Police are warning young people in Gosport not to take the drug mephedrone - as it can lead to mental health problems.
A multi-agency taskforce is working in partnership in the town to highlight the risks of the recreational drug, favoured by young people because its relative low price and ease of availability.
The new multi-agency approach will ensure that a range of partners and agencies, including Police, Gosport Borough Council and specialist substance misuse service providers, such as Catch22, share expertise and deliver the specialist services that young people need in order to reduce the use of Mephedrone and reduce the harm it causes to them, their families and their communities.
The drug, also known as meow meow, bubbles, drone, M-Cat and meph, is normally sold as a powder, but can come in a number of forms, including in tablets. Some have also injected the drug.
Operation Tapestry Action Group, or TAG as it is known are supporting parents and carers to identify key signs that their children could be taking the highly addictive drug.
Tell-tale signs of use include "a strong smell like cat wee" and extreme weight loss over a short period of time. It can also cause sniffing and nosebleeds. The team are also working to support parents and carers to respond in non-reactive ways if they suspect use.
Effects of the drug also include anxiety, aggression and sudden crying. It can also lead to more complex mental health problems and impact verbal and oral communication in users.
Nerys Anthony, Catch22 Head of Young People's Health and Wellbeing said:
"Catch22 takes very seriously the growing problem of Mephedrone use in the County. We welcome the introduction of Operation Tapestry, which directly follows concerns we raised about the use of Mephedrone in Fareham and Gosport.
Raising awareness is key part of the operation. By working with professionals through schools and children's homes and through training the wider young people's workforce, we will help families and the community to understand and tackle this problem while steering young people away from this harmful new trend.".
Gosport District Inspector Clare Jenkins, said:
"As a partnership we are committed to reducing the demand for Mephedrone in Gosport and Fareham, offering support to those affected.
"Users are likely to land themselves in trouble with the law. Mephedrone became a controlled Class B drug in April 2010.
"This means that being in possession of it can result in up to five years in prison and supplying it to others can result in a 14-year prison sentence and an unlimited fine."
Gosport MP, Caroline Dineage, said:
"The high rates of Mephedrone in our area is of great concern which is why I am pleased that this task force has been established to make young people and their families aware of the risks associated with this drug."