Said to provide users with strength comparable to the Incredible Hulk, and a zombie-like attraction to eating human faces, the effects of the drug known as "monkey dust" are as varied as they are extreme.

Based on the experiences of emergency services in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, the synthetic substance linked to a spate of violent attacks in the US is beginning to make its presence felt in the UK.

This summer has seen a series of violent and psychotic episodes for police and paramedics, with users of the illegal drug seen leaping from rooftops with and fighting with officers.

:: So, what exactly is monkey dust?

Monkey dust also goes by the name of MDPV. Sometimes labelled as bath salts, they were readily available at American petrol stations, bookshops and convenience stores before they were outlawed in 2012 by Barack Obama.

The drug usually comes in the form of a yellowish white powder, which can be ingested, injected and snorted.

:: What does it do?

Monkey dust stops users from feeling pain, leads to hallucinations and causes severe paranoia.

People who use it commonly believe they are being chased and often try to climb buildings and lash out at anyone around them – and it has been linked to horrific face-eating attacks in the US.

But when any possible highs wear off – such as the Hulk-like strength reported by officers in Stoke-on-Trent – users are said to experience unpleasant hangover-like side effects.

It is a dangerous stimulant that can have devastating effects on the nervous system, with paranoia, hallucinations, chest pain and high blood pressure among the potential symptoms.

:: Why is it on the rise?

The substance falls into the category of a designer drug and can be picked up for as little as £2.

That is despite it being illegal in a number of countries, including the UK, US, Australia and Canada.

Experts say effects can occur with doses as low as 3mg to 5mg, meaning one small purchase can end up going a long way and contribute to people becoming addicted.

Once hooked, users are said to experience cravings similar to those who use meth.

:: Should you be concerned?

Police in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire have told Sky News that its presence in their area has increased dramatically this summer – leading to them describing it as an epidemic.

And last month, West Mercia Police issued a warning about the dangers of taking the psychoactive drug after the deaths of two men in separate incidents was linked to the substance.

Detective Inspector Lee Holehouse said people should be aware of a potentially bad batch in circulation in Telford.

In January, a similar warning was put out by officers in Worcester, with Detective Chief Inspector Carl Moore advising that the drug could be very dangerous and potentially fatal.

:: Information on drug abuse is available by calling Talk to Frank on 0300 123 6600, or online at talktofrank.com.

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(c) Sky News 2018: From ‘Hulk-like strength’ to ‘zombie face-eating’ – what is monkey dust?