Pupils fall ill at NI school after vaping suspected Spice

Two pupils at an NI high school were medically treated this week after vaping suspected Spice - an illegal narcotic.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 4:10 pm

The boys took ill on separate days this week, the latest on Thursday when ambulances were called to Craigavon Senior High School campus in Portadown.

On both occasions the school went into a ‘stay put’ alert as medics dealt with the casualties - a lockdown policy the school uses to protect the dignity of those suffering medical issues and for pupils’ protection.

School Principal Ms Ruth Harkness confirmed there had been ‘a number of recent incidents involving student vaping devices’.

Craigavon Senior High School. Portadown Campus. Photo courtesy of Google.

It is understood at least one of the pupils received hospital treatment but was released from hospital.

A PSNI spokesperson said: “Police received a report that a male pupil from a school in Craigavon required medical attention on Wednesday 5th May, due to having had an adverse reaction after inhaling a substance from a vape type device.”

Sergeant Brian Hull said: “The boy was taken by ambulance to hospital for treatment but has since been released. Further information has been received that another male pupil, from the same school, also received medical treatment on Thursday 6th May in similar circumstances. Our enquiries into both incidents are ongoing. I would like to remind people that persons under 18 years of age should not be using vape devices as their sale is prohibited to anyone under 18 and I would also urge anyone using vape devices to only use liquids obtained from reputable sellers and not to purchase liquids which could be harmful to their health.

“Neighbourhood Policing Team officers have been visiting schools to warn of the dangers involved in vaping substances that do not come from reputable retailers and we will continue with our efforts to highlight these dangers.”

The NI Ambulance Service said it received a 999 call at 10.30 on Wednesday, 05 May 2021 following reports of an incident in the Lurgan Road area of Portadown. “NIAS despatched one Emergency crew to the scene.

Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, one patient was taken by ambulance to Craigavon Area Hospital.”

In a separate 999 call at 10.58 on Thursday, 06 May 2021 it said: “NIAS despatched one Emergency crew to the scene. Following assessment and initial treatment at the scene, no one was taken to hospital.”

School principal Ms Harkness, revealed in a letter to parents and guardians that the school had dealt with ‘a number of recent incidents involving student vaping devices’.

She said: “The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the issue as well as alert you to possible repercussions if your child engages in vaping on school property. We take this issue very seriously due to the negative health effects vaping can have.

“Vaping involves the inhaling of a vapour created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or another vaping device. E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking devices. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavourings, chemicals and other substances which is concerning. The liquids come in many different flavours and might even smell fruity. This liquid is heated into a vapour, which the person inhales. That is why using e-cigarettes is called “vaping.”

“We would like to draw your attention to recent information released by The Public Health Agency (PHA), it is important that everyone understands the dangers of vaping unregulated substances. The PHA highlights information about young people becoming ill after vaping ‘spice’.

“Reports have suggested that those affected thought they were purchasing THC or cannabis oil, however they were unknowingly supplied with and had taken the synthetic drug ‘spice’, the effects of which required hospital treatment.

“Vaporisers/e-cigarettes come in all different shapes. Some common styles we see look like a thick pen, a stylus for an iPad, a flash drive, or a small flask with a round chimney coming off the top. The devices are very small and can easily be hidden on a person or blend in with normal backpack items. It is illegal to sell vaping items to people under the age of 18, however, students report that they purchase the devices online or buy from older siblings, friends, or people they have organised to meet in the community through social media.

“Students tell us they vape due to an addiction to nicotine they have developed, a peer pressure issue or they are simply curious and want to try it out.

“Vaping is prohibited at Craigavon Senior High School and it is also against the school rules to carry any such device, be under the influence of an illegal substance or supply other students with device or substance. On enrolment all students and parents/guardians sign off to acknowledge their understanding of the rules of Craigavon Senior High School.

“Students found in possession of an e-cigarette or any other banned items will have this confiscated and this may warrant a referral to the PSNI and or Social Services. All incidents involving banned items or substance misuse in school will be deemed as a very serious breach of the school Code of Conduct and could lead to expulsion.

“I trust you share our concerns about this harmful issue. Our goal is to partner with parents to help support our students in making positive decisions for themselves and their future. We encourage you to have a conversation with your child about this topic. As we learn more, we will certainly share that information.”

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