Synthetic cannabis user warns others

KELLY DENNETT
Last updated 05:00 20/03/2014
Legal Highs
ADDICTIVE: Former user Adam Watson, 27, says synthetic cannabis is more addictive than tobacco.

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"It was horrible at first but I persevered with it."

Adam Watson's experience with legal highs should serve as a warning to people thinking about trying it, he says.

"It's important to me that if they're going to use it they should at least know how bad it is," he says.

"Don't do it."

The 27-year-old is speaking out alongside many others who are concerned about the effects of legal highs.

Waitakere Community Law Service and Henderson Massey Local Board have both made a stand against shops that sell the drugs.

They believe legal highs stores are contributing to a raft of problems in Henderson's CBD including criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.

Mr Watson says he sought the drug after being convicted of drink driving.

On his bail conditions he wasn't allowed to take drugs or alcohol but found obtaining synthetic drugs over the counter was an easy alternative for him.

He quickly realised that the products weren't doing him any good, he says.

"It's really addictive, it's worse than smoking in terms of addiction," he says.

"I'm a smoker but that stuff was horrible.

"I had really bad coughs, I was coughing up black stuff."

His motivation decreased significantly, meaning most of his days were spent on the couch which led to arguments with his partner, he says.

Mr Watson says he spent about $40 a day on legal highs and would smoke it up to 10 times a day.

When it was discovered he was using legal highs while on bail he was booked into a treatment programme.

Mr Watson says he hasn't looked back and is looking forward to returning to work.

Addiction still persists for many others, with Waitemata District Health Board saying there's evidence that synthetic cannabis users are putting pressure on acute admission wards.

In August last year a nurse spoke to the Western Leader expressing concern that the situation was out of control and put in the "too hard basket" by the board.

Mental health services clinical director Dr Murray Patton says there is still concern about the impact of synthetic drugs both on individuals and the hospital's services. He says clinical evidence shows the substances can cause psychotic symptoms even in people who have no history of psychiatric disorder.

Those who do have a prior history of psychotic symptoms or mood disturbance will find the drugs will make their conditions markedly worse, he says.

"They also appear to be powerfully addictive with the sought after effects having a very short duration of action, requiring users to take more of the substance more frequently to obtain the effect they are seeking," Dr Patton says.

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KEY FACTS

The Psychoactive Substances Act came into power in July 2013.

It bans the sale of synthetic drugs in places like supermarkets, dairies and convenience stores and retailers need a licence to sell it.

Under the act local authorities are given the power to regulate where substances can be sold through preparing their own Local Area Product Policy.

Auckland Council say it is working with a committee to develop its policy but decisions are yet to be made.

- Western Leader

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