14 Jul 2014 Drugs charity says meow meow use in Swansea has dropped over the past year

THE use of illegal drug meow meow in Swansea has dropped over the past 12 months, according to one of the city's drug agencies.

The experience of charity Sands Cymru comes just days after a judge at Swansea Crown Court warned of an epidemic of the drug in South Wales, as he sentenced seven men to more than 30 years collectively for their role in supplying and distributing the drug, otherwise known as mephedrone, as well as others.

Sentencing the gang earlier this week, judge Peter Heywood said: "I have sat in this court regularly and mephedrone has almost reached epidemic proportions in south Wales. It has become the drug of choice."

His verdict came just over a year after Sands Cymru had raised its own concerns about the drug.

Then, the charity, which provides services to drug users and their families and friends, said use of the white powder had rocketed in the region.

Its chief executive, Ifor Glyn, said he had never seen a drug become so popular in such a short space of time in the past 20 years.

But while its use remains widespread, Mr Glyn, who is one of Wales' foremost experts on drug abuse, said the use of the drug appeared to have dropped in Swansea over the last year.

He said: "Twelve months ago, I would probably have agreed with the judge's comments to some extent. "And when these people were operating it was probably the case.

"But we have seen a significant difference over the past year.

"Swansea was definitely one of the hot-spots for mephedrone, for people buying and selling.

"You had people who had problems with drugs, and those who just used them on the weekend, and they saw the side effects which were horrendous, both physical and psychological.

"A lot of people suffered and it was causing problems for the community, but that has changed.

"There has been a significant change in there is less use, mainly because people were seeing the bad effects, in themselves or in friends.

"And there is the risk in quality, people did not know what they are taking, while there were other drugs that offered less risks and damage.

"There has been a massive difference in the number of people coming forward ."

Swansea Crown Court was told that Mathew Pugh, of Port Talbot, was one of the 'key customers' in the drug operation, before he was sentenced to five years, four months in jail.

He used his own home at Lower West End, as well as his parents' address, to receive delivery of drugs and then re-package them.

When police searched his home, they found £14,740 in a carrier bag at the bottom of the stairs, two blocks of amphetamines weighing 3,430g as well as component parts of a hydraulic press.

Also sentenced for their role in the operation were Mathew Roberts, Nicholas Avery and Richard Saltmarsh, all of no fixed address, Damien Ramsey and Jamie Hunt, from Bristol, and Andrew Clay, of Solihull.

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