Lack of help for addiction a problem

17:00, May 01 2014

A lack of treatment services for addicted youth is the biggest issue surrounding legal highs, a Mt Eden addiction centre says.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne announced on Sunday the government would introduce legislation to remove synthetic drugs from sale until they could be proven low-risk.

The law change is to be introduced to Parliament under urgency next week.

Odyssey House chief executive Philip Grady says the biggest issue is access to treatment.

There needs to be more treatment options, particularly in schools, for young people with addiction problems, he says.

"What we're seeing is an increase in people presenting who have used synthetic drugs, particularly in the youth age group.


"There's not enough services for youth on the ground.

"While there are a range of initiatives that are being put in place . . . there's not a consistent way of providing services to youth who have addiction problems."

The Psychoactive Substances Act came into force last July to regulate the manufacture and sale of legal-high products.

Since then the number of shops selling them dropped from about 4000 unregulated sellers to less than 170 licenced premises, according to the Ministry of Health.

The number of products was slashed from 200 to less than 50.

Mayor Len Brown is pleased with the latest moves to ban all products.

"I was raised in a community in Otara with dak houses; well, you just shut them down," Brown says.

"If that's where illegal drug activity occurs, well, you just keep the pressure on at both a law enforcement, council and community activity front . . . you just keep the pressure on and shut it down."

The government acted on information from the Ministry of Health that legal highs did not cause unnecessary health problems, which was incorrect, he says. But it's the role of government, charity and community groups to put more funds into rehabilitation services, Brown says.

The industry body that represents most retailers licensed under the psychosubstances act, Star Trust, says the government's "shock announcement" contradicts earlier assertions that bans don't work.

"It screams of political posturing in election year," research manager Angela McInerney says.

"It will cause businesses to shut down, staff to be laid off and otherwise law-abiding Kiwis to deal with organised crime."

Reports of youth vomiting blood and having psychotic episodes are "emotional and unsubstantiated", McInerney says.

"They are unsubstantiated about what products they're using, how they're using the products and what they're using them with.

A lot of the problems are caused by alcohol and synthetics combined.

"We know that the market and demand for products that are not alcohol is still there."

Brown says he met with Prime Minister John Key on Monday to offer council's help.

He says he is looking forward to working with the government.


Alcohol Drugs helpline 0800 787 797

Odyssey House 638 4957 

Central Leader