Mother and daugh­ter try to help oth­ers

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

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.’’

Photo: RHI­AN­NON McCON­NELL

Two gen­er­a­tions: Kahu Pahina, left, and her daugh­ter To­mairangi Pahina were both ad­dicted to syn­thetic drugs.

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