A government ban on legal highs has not planned for the pressure on drug and alcohol resources in Marlborough, a volunteer who counsels addicts has said.
Marlborough Drug Arm chairman Roy Ramsey said there were not enough addiction resources to help sufferers dealing with the side affects of coming off the drugs.
He feared synthetic drugs would go underground and users would self-medicate with cannabis instead of going to rehab or seeking counselling. From 12.01am today it became illegal to sell, supply or possess psychoactive substances including synthetic cannabis.
Parliament passed a law under urgency, banning the products. Health Minister Tony Ryall introduced the Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill, which banned 41 products given interim approval under legislation passed last year.
Ramsey, who counsels drug users after they have rejected rehab or counselling, supported the ban but said government forward planning was wanting.
"Either the government didn't know how bad the problem was or they implemented this ban and were in denial about the impact on drug and alcohol services. Either way we don't have the resources. There are those who will not get help and for them, unfortunately, it will be a bumpy road."
Ramsey said heavy users would need clinical detox for which there was limited government funding.
He predicted many users would not turn to their GP or emergency doctors for help with the side-affects which included paranoia, vomiting, depression and agitation.
"Most kids will try to self-medicate and turn to pot [cannabis] as the easy option. Unfortunately short-term gain causes long-term pain.
"Some people will be stockpiling. That will cause problems because they will use more now because it is there.
"These are vulnerable people. Some are dealing with other garbage in their lives and synthetic drugs is just a cover up."
Ramsey said in one street alone in Blenheim there were four underground locations selling synthetic drugs.
Blenheim woman Suzie Harris, who made a submission to Marlborough District Council to support a zero tolerance policy on synthetic drugs, has a family member getting treatment for an addiction to the drug.
"The first time an older person bought it for them," Harris said. "It was probably peer pressure. Kids want to experiment. They were told it was legal, took one smoke and became hooked."
She agreed with Ramsey the government had not thought beyond the ban.
"The current facilities are not going to be significant to cope with people coming down off legal highs.
"Have they got the staff and counsellors to cope with the influx. We have to love, care and support these people."
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board's addictions services said they would meet the demand.
Addictions specialist Dr Michael Haskew urged those experiencing withdrawal problems to contact them or their GP.
If you have concerns about withdrawal symptoms contact Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Those managing their own withdrawal can log onto matuaraki.org.nz/library/matuaraki for more information.
Visit addictionshelp.org.nz/Services/Home to find addiction support.
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