Syn­thet­ics at 24

Taranaki Daily News - - In Depth -

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.’’

GE­ORGE HEARD/ STUFF

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.

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