The Spice Trail: transitions in synthetic cannabis receptor agonists (SCRAs) use in English prisons and on release

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Since 2010, Synthetic Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists (SCRAs) have dominated concerns about drug use in prison; particularly as their use increases in custody and has profound impacts on users, non-users and prison staff. However, far less is known about whether SCRA use continues on release, when ex-prisoners are under the supervision of Community Rehabilitation Companies or resident in Approved Premises. This study, the first of its type, examined experiences of SCRAs amongst recently released ex-prisoners and found that, most often, use discontinues on release, suggesting that SCRAs are seen predominantly as a ‘prison drug’ or, for those continuing use, as a way to avoid a positive drug test and/or breaching their licence whilst living in an Approved Premises. Awareness of SCRA use among their clients differed notably between Community Rehabilitation Company staff and Approved Premises staff; with the former having far less awareness and thus, also far less experience of the associated problems for supervision of their clients.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalDrugs: Education, Prevention & Policy
Early online date6 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Nov 2019

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© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • NPS, Spice, Synthetic cannabinoids, prison, drugs, probation

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