Synthetics at 24
New substance, or bad batch? Beat addiction
The Mental Health Foundation’s free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:
The Alcohol Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797
Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633.
Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Substances Act in 2014 amid concerns they were highly addictive and potentially destructive to health and mental wellbeing.
According to the New Zealand Drug Foundation, there are hundreds of synthetic cannabinoids, all invented in the past 20 years. Like cannabis, they target the cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Those commonly used in New Zealand include 5F-ADB, ABFUBINACA, AMB-FUBINACA and JWH-122.
Sergeant Chris Barker, of Canterbury’s offender prevention team, has a simpler version: ‘‘They just throw a whole lot of chemicals into a plant material and then deal it.’’
In Christchurch, two deaths and the admittance of 31 people to hospital – at least six of whom required intensive care – linked to synthetic drugs since September 20, prompted police to raid six properties and charge five people with supplying psychoactive substances.
On their way to one, officers found five people unconscious, or near to it, on the side of the road – one with an empty synthetics bag in his backpack.
They found yet another man unconscious at the nearby deal house, which was set up like a shop, with pre-packaged synthetics for sale, cash, scales and multiple cellphones.
Barker says police are seeing a ‘‘concerning trend’’ of people passing out after taking the drugs.
‘‘We don’t know what we can put that down to yet, 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.
‘‘They’re not scientists, they’re drug dealers, so you really are gambling with your life when you start buying stuff from people who have really no knowledge what they’re doing.’’
Barker says many users want to get off the drugs and know the dangers, but are addicted.
NZ needs to prepare
Health Minister Dr David Clark wants synthetic drugs reclassified to a Class A drug, alongside heroin and cocaine, so police can ‘‘go after the peddlers [and] interrupt the supply of them into the community’’. That decision is weeks away. Drug Foundation drug demand reduction programmes manager Nathan Brown says synthetic drugs have caused a ‘‘public health emergency’’.
Since the Psychoactive Substances Act was introduced, more dangerous substances with stronger effects have been sold on the black market, he says.
‘‘Drugs like this will keep coming, so New Zealand has to get prepared. We can’t turn back the clock or wish these problems away.
‘‘An urgent, comprehensive response is needed, with police, hospitals, St John and social services working together.’’
The foundation was working closely with more than a dozen organisations and Government agencies to get more information about the substances, including a drug checking service.
‘‘The most vulnerable need a lot of support, like one-to-one assistance to get people’s life on track, access to treatment.
‘‘We also need to get accurate information out there so people can make informed choices.’’
Amy Zhou says her son went from being an intelligent, active young man to ‘‘lazy’’ and uninterested in anything but taking synthetic drugs.
Synthetic cannabis found during a recent search of properties in Christchurch.