More syn­thetic drug users end­ing up in hospi­tal

Taranaki Daily News - - National News - Sam Sher­wood

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.

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