Holme House staff 'hysterical' after legal high use

Holme House Prison Image copyright Google
Image caption HMP Holme House is a category B prison for men with space for around 1,200 inmates

Staff at a prison have suffered hallucinations and become hysterical after inadvertently inhaling so-called legal highs, officers have claimed.

Officers at HMP Holme House in Stockton, Teesside, have also complained of feeling dizzy after entering cells where inmates have been smoking the drug Spice.

The Prison Officer Association said the drug is also increasing violence.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) said it is investigating.

Andy Baxter, chairman of the Prison Officer Association at Holme House, said officers have inhaled the synthetic cannabis when visiting cells.

Image caption Spice is a synthetic cannabis

He told BBC Tees: "They report smelling a sweet smell, something like a floral disinfectant, after a couple of breaths they start to feel dizzy and get headaches.

"A couple have reported being hysterical, their emotions just run away with them.

"We had an officer who we believe was exposed to it, during the night he said he got a fierce burning sensation in his head which felt like his head was covered with nits and spent the night tearing at the top of his head."

Mr Baxter also said officers had been injured by inmates high on the drug.

He said: "They can become very aggressive, we have had a couple of cases where prisoners get super human strength.

"We have incidents where it has taken seven or eight staff to restrain one slightly built prisoner."

Mr Baxter said some former prisoners are deliberately getting themselves returned to prison so they can smuggle drugs inside in body orifices to pay off debts.

One former inmate said: "I've seen lads going berserk on it, turning on their best mates and fighting over it.

"I've also seen it where lads have dropped down dead, had heart attacks, gone into comas, gone loopy and ended up being sectioned because of it."

An MOJ spokesman said drug searches are regularly carried out, with offenders punished.

He said: "However, it's clear we need to do more.

"The Justice Secretary has asked the Ministry of Justice to look at how we can ensure prisons have the right tools in place to tackle this problem."

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