Lack of help for ad­dic­tion a prob­lem

Central Leader - - NEWS - By JENNY LING and JESS ETHERIDGE

A lack of treat­ment ser­vices for ad­dicted youth is the big­gest is­sue sur­round­ing le­gal highs, a Mt Eden ad­dic­tion cen­tre says.

As­so­ciate Health Min­is­ter Peter Dunne an­nounced on Sun­day the govern­ment would in­tro­duce leg­is­la­tion to re­move syn­thetic drugs from sale un­til they could be proven low-risk.

The law change is to be in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment un­der ur­gency next week.

Odyssey House chief ex­ec­u­tive Philip Grady says the big­gest is­sue is ac­cess to treat­ment.

There needs to be more treat­ment op­tions, par­tic­u­larly in schools, for young people with ad­dic­tion prob­lems, he says.

‘‘What we’re see­ing is an in­crease in people pre­sent­ing who have used syn­thetic drugs, par­tic­u­larly in the youth age group.

‘‘There’s not enough ser­vices for youth on the ground.

‘‘While there are a range of ini­tia­tives that are be­ing put in place . . . there’s not a con­sis­tent way of pro­vid­ing ser­vices to youth who have ad­dic­tion prob­lems.’’

The Psy­choac­tive Sub­stances Act came into force last July to reg­u­late the man­u­fac­ture and sale of legal­high prod­ucts.

Since then the num­ber of shops sell­ing them dropped from about 4000 un­reg­u­lated sell­ers to less than 170 li­cenced premises, ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health.

The num­ber of prod­ucts was slashed from 200 to less than 50.

Mayor Len Brown is pleased with the lat­est moves to ban all prod­ucts.

‘‘I was raised in a com­mu­nity in Otara with dak houses; well, you just shut them down,’’ Brown says.

‘‘If that’s where il­le­gal drug ac­tiv­ity oc­curs, well, you just keep the pres­sure on at both a law en­force­ment, coun­cil and com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity front . . . you just keep the pres­sure on and shut it down.’’

The govern­ment acted on in­for­ma­tion from the Min­istry of Health that le­gal highs did not cause un­nec­es­sary health prob­lems, which was in­cor­rect, he says. But it’s the role of govern­ment, char­ity and com­mu­nity groups to put more funds into re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices, Brown says.

The in­dus­try body that rep­re­sents most re­tail­ers li­censed un­der the psy­chosub­stances act, Star Trust, says the govern­ment’s ‘‘shock an­nounce­ment’’ con­tra­dicts ear­lier as­ser­tions that bans don’t work.

‘‘It screams of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing in elec­tion year,’’ re­search man­ager An­gela McInerney says.

‘‘It will cause businesses to shut down, staff to be laid off and other- wise law-abid­ing Ki­wis to deal with or­gan­ised crime.’’

Re­ports of youth vom­it­ing blood and hav­ing psy­chotic episodes are ‘‘emo­tional and un­sub­stan­ti­ated’’, McInerney says.

‘‘They are un­sub­stan­ti­ated about what prod­ucts they’re us­ing, how they’re us­ing the prod­ucts and what they’re us­ing them with.

A lot of the prob­lems are caused by al­co­hol and syn­thet­ics com­bined.

‘‘We know that the mar­ket and de­mand for prod­ucts that are not al­co­hol is still there.’’

Brown says he met with Prime Min­is­ter John Key on Mon­day to of­fer coun­cil’s help.

He says he is look­ing for­ward to work­ing with the govern­ment.

Peter Dunne

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