Legal highs turn son into 'time bomb'

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 10/01/2014

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A Palmerston North father says psychoactive substances have turned his teen into a shaking, sweating, thieving, time bomb.

Peter Malneek had his suspicions of his 17-year-old son's addiction to legal highs confirmed about eight months ago.

Before that, the teen, whom he does not want named, was a good student, but moved schools and started hanging out with a new crowd, with a downward spiral in his behaviour, Mr Malneek said.

At first he tried to hide his addiction, and later dropped out of school.

Although the teen was too young to buy legal highs, Mr Malneek had been told by his son's friends that he was able to buy them.

To pay for the products, his son had started stealing household items and selling them, along with some of his own clothes.

He had also become volatile, and Mr Malneek had called the police on him several times when he became too aggressive for him to handle, he said.

The teen had lost "a lot" of weight, and would simply open and shut the fridge without eating, he said.

When the drugs wore off, he became shaky and sweaty, taking two or three showers a day.

At one point, Mr Malneek said, he called an ambulance because his son collapsed, passing out on the floor.

Mr Malneek has contacted local agencies for help, and tried counselling, but his options were limited by his son's unwillingness to help himself.

"He wants to quit, but then just tells people trying to help what they want to hear," he said.

Mr Malneek said he was afraid his son, and others like him, would end up turning to more serious crime. "People don't realise how volatile these kids are, they're like a molotov cocktail ready to explode."

MidCentral District Health Board's Alcohol and Other Drug Services' Ann Flintoff said there was a residential facility for teens under 18 to attend on referral, giving them a safe environment in which to detox, but it required an acknowledgement that they needed to get away, were prepared to quit, and be away from family for 30 days.

Counselling could take a while for people to get used to, particularly for young people, who were often sceptical and private, so often took a number of sessions for them to feel comfortable enough to open up.

Parents should get support themselves, getting together with other parents or family members, and stay consistent with their message and offers of help, and encouraging any positive goals the child might have.

"And have some hope, they may, particularly, 17-year-olds, grow out of it, and come out the other side."

Youth One Stop Shop manager Trissel Mayor said it was difficult to help someone who didn't want help, and going away and getting clean could all be undone if they returned to the same environment, so it required careful management.

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Another option was for families to work together with a health provider to reduce the amount of the drug taken over time at home.

Parents needed to provide support and a safe environment, setting boundaries and adapting their parenting style if it was no longer working.

For those seeking advice, the Youth One Stop Shop provides free information, advice and services for 10- to 24-year-olds. Contact 06 355 5906, and the Alcohol and Drug Helpline, a confidential information, referral and intervention service, is free to call 10am till 10pm daily on 0800 787 797. Both are among numerous organisations that can get you started.

- Manawatu Standard

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