Drug dealers in Cornwall posed as grocery delivery volunteers as they found ways of continuing to sell during lockdown.
This was just one of the ways that the drug trade has been highlighted as being “creative” during the coronavirus pandemic.
And a number of deaths and overdoses were caused by prescription drugs being supplied instead of what was claimed.
With concerns highlighted in St Austell this week about a rise in people being seen to be taking drugs in the town centre it has been revealed that there have been continuing issues during lockdown.
Rob Nolan, Cornwall Council Cabinet member for public protection, said: “The drug dealers were finding ways of getting around lockdown. They were posing as delivering shopping for people when they were taking drugs around.”
Read next: Drug problems are ‘an issue across Cornwall’
Kim Hager, joint commissioning manager at the council, said there had been incidents of prescription drugs being sold in containers which said they were something else.
With lockdown preventing travel and freedom of movement, drug dealers were unable to source their supplies as normal.
As a result they were placing drugs the buyers didn’t want into packaging which indicated that it was the drugs they normally received and then selling them to addicts.
Those addicts were then unwittingly taking drugs which caused a negative reaction and, in some cases, led to them overdosing, having to be hospitalised and even dying.
Kim explained that there had been a drug alert issued to warn authorities of the practice and what had been sold.
She said: “It (lockdown) did have an impact and some of the drug supply changed.
“We suddenly had lots of reports of people (addicts) behaving quite strangely, we had people becoming much more aggressive and there being more behaviour problems (due to what they had taken).
“When we had those drugs tested we found that they were not what people thought they were. They were being sold in blister packs and pots from pharmacies but were not what they said on them.
“We did have a number of deaths, hospitalisations and a lot of overdoses from those drugs.”
Cllr Nolan said that Cornwall had also been a target for county lines operations – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, usually by children who have been coerced by gangs.
He said: “We have been targeted by county lines and it has got more aggressive lately.”
And Cllr Nolan said that those behind the drug trade are usually better equipped than those trying to stop them.
He said: “The criminal gangs have more resources than us. We are stretched and there is only so much that we can do.”