Mother and daughter try to help others
A Titahi Bay mother and daughter have more in common than just their DNA – they have both been addicted to legal highs and ended up in hospital.
Now Kahu and Tomairangi Pahina are fighting to help other addicts.
Tomairangi, 21, began smoking synthetic drugs early last year as an alternative to marijuana.
‘‘I started synthetics because it was cheaper. You could get more for your money,’’ she said.
At her worst she was smoking two bags a day.
‘‘I was drowsy all the time. You couldn’t be bothered doing anything for the whole day from the moment you took it. It was still a buzz and it was addictive.
‘‘I would have done anything, starved myself just so I could get synthetics.’’
She gave up a promising career in performing arts.
‘‘Synthetics stopped me from doing that because all I wanted to do was get high.
‘‘I could have been flying around the world, but I chose synthetics over it. It stole [my dream] and got the better of me.’’
After seven months on the drugs, Tomairangi suffered a severe attack in which she could not breathe and was taken to hospital. It was a wake-up call for her. ‘‘It was legal, so I thought it was fine. If they put it on the shelves it must be safe.’’
Four months on, Tomairangi still suffers anxiety attacks.
She was inspired to do something for other addicts after reading the Kapi-Mana News frontpage article on synthetic drugs last month.
‘‘I had been thinking for a while that I wanted to get synthetics out of Porirua, but I didn’t know how the community would respond.’’
Tomairangi and her mother, Kahu, started a Facebook page called Say NO To Synthetic Drugs in Porirua last week.
More than 800 people have joined the page and they are planning a protest this Saturday under the Canopies.
Tomairangi said the Government’s decision to ban synthetic drugs until each was proven safe was a good start, but was not enough.
‘‘I want to get it out of New Zealand. When they take it off the shelves, they take it off the shelves for good.’’
A recent addict herself, Tomairangi’s mother Kahu said a lot of addicts she had spoken to wanted to quit and were supportive of getting legal highs off shelves.
‘‘We were overwhelmed by the response,’’ she said.
Kahu gave up the drugs only three weeks ago, so is still suffering from withdrawals.
She started smoking synthetic drugs on her birthday last July and soon was smoking it every day.
Kahu, who is in her 50s, said it was not just a young person’s problem.
‘‘It’s right across the board. I’m a grandparent and I was doing it.’’
Kahu spent nine months smoking it before a side effect put her in hospital.
Mana MP Kris Faafoi said that after the law changes on Thursday there will be a responsibility for the community to help those addicted.
He said the law change was a win for communities around New Zealand.
‘‘It’s never going to be perfect. There is a degree that will go underground, but getting rid of it will expose fewer people.’’
Like the Pahinas, Faafoi would like more done than just banning the drugs until each is tested for safety.
‘‘I would like the bar set so high that nothing is legal to be sold.
‘‘If we are going to take it off the streets, it needs to be for good.’’
Two generations: Kahu Pahina, left, and her daughter Tomairangi Pahina were both addicted to synthetic drugs.