More synthetic drug users ending up in hospital
A further 12 people have been admitted to Christchurch Hospital this week after taking synthetic drugs, bringing the total to 31 people in the past three weeks.
A Canterbury District Health Board spokesman said three of the 12 people who presented this week needed intensive care treatment.
Of the 31 people hospitalised since September 20 after taking synthetic drugs, six were admitted to the intensive care unit, where two of them remain.
Two others are believed to have died after taking the drug during the same period. It is understood they did not have hospital treatment.
The admissions prompted a crackdown by police, with officers raiding seven properties and charging seven people with supplying psychoactive substances.
During one of the searches, police found five people unconscious on the side of the road, one with an empty synthetics bag sitting on his backpack. They found yet another man unconscious at the nearby deal house, which was set up like a shop, with prepackaged synthetics for sale, cash, scales, and multiple cellphones.
Sergeant Chris Barker, of Canterbury’s offender prevention team said police were seeing a ‘‘concerning trend’’ of people passing out after taking the drugs. ‘‘We’re still waiting for results to come back, but it would be fair to say there’s either a new substance or a bad batch or some sort of mixing going on.’’
New Zealand Drug Foundation drug demand reduction programmes manager Nathan Brown said synthetic drugs had caused a ‘‘public health emergency’’.
Since the Psychoactive Substances Act was introduced in 2014, more dangerous substances with stronger effects were being sold on the black market, he said.
‘‘An urgent, comprehensive response is needed, with police, hospitals, St John and social services working together.’’
St John territory manager for Christchurch metro Craig Downing said last week there had been a ‘‘substantial’’ rise in the number of patients using synthetic drugs and the level of their aggression.
People using synthetic drugs were unpredictable and challenging to manage, he said.
Synthetic cannabis found during a recent search in Christchurch.