Medical staff and police mop up the problems caused by legal highs.
Auckland City Hospital deals with eight to 10 patients a month who end up in its emergency department after taking them.
Adult emergency department clinical director Dr Anil Nair says the fact the drugs are legal creates an illusion of safety.
‘‘It’s one of the more common drugs we tend to see. It’s probably the second biggest thing next to alcohol.’’
Most patients are suffering mild effects and often take themselves to hospital because of something like an increased heart rate. ‘‘The ones we are more worried about are the ones with psychotic symptoms, we have to give them medication to control them and calm them down,’’ he says.
Auckland Central Police Inspector Vaughn Graham says there appears to be a link between the sale of legal highs and an increase in begging in the CBD.
‘‘On a lot of occasions that money will not be used for the purpose it was donated, often the money is used to purchase alcohol and synthetic cannabis,’’ he says. ‘‘You can buy some products for as little as $10 and they can easily make that.’’
Generally, retailers are sticking to their legal obligations and there are very few complaints about stores breaching the law, he says.
Many complaints are about users smoking synthetic cannabis in public.
‘‘We would get one or two complaints every week about people smoking it from bongs on Queen St,’’ Mr Graham says.
‘‘It definitely has an impact on people’s perception of safety in the central city.’’
Mr Graham wants to see restrictions on the times the products can be sold.
‘‘At the moment shops can be open 24 hours a day. It flies in the face a bit of some of the work we’ve done around alcohol.’’