Struggling to escape clutches of legal highs

'I want to stay off it' says user

NICCI MCDOUGALL
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014
Bowman legal highs
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ
QUITTING: David Bowman, 22, and his sister Trinity Jenkins.

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Invercargill man David Bowman is struggling with legal high withdrawals.

Bowman, 22, has been smoking legal highs daily for about 1 year, sometimes spending up to $300 a week. However, he stopped three weeks ago.

Since then he has been suffering withdrawal symptoms, including sweats, nightmares, anger, vomiting and no appetite, he said.

His sister Trinity Jenkins said he had a "meltdown" on Monday and that she contacted the Southland Hospital on Tuesday to ask for help.

Jenkins said she was struggling to find help for her brother after being turned away from services.

When she called the hospital on Tuesday she was transferred to the mental health services, which she said could not help.

Jenkins explained her brother was coming off legal highs and she was concerned about his state of mind but was told to go to a GP.

However, the pair could not afford to visit a GP, she said.

Medical director medical directorate at the Southern District Health Board Brendan Rae said people should go to their GP or access mental health addiction services in the first instance of withdrawals.

"Should they come to ED we will provide short-term treatment for serious acute withdrawal symptoms but not supervised withdrawal or ongoing care which is supervised by the Mental Health Addictions Services," Rae said.

Bowman has been off legal highs for about two weeks apart from one slip-up and continues to suffer side effects although they had lessened, he said.

"I'm keeping myself busy ... I want to stay off it."

Last week it became illegal to sell, supply or possess psychoactive substances, including synthetic cannabis.

Southland Hospital had not been inundated with patients suffering from withdrawals.

"We have had a few cases of patients presenting over the last few days with withdrawal symptoms, but it has not been overwhelming," Rae said. 

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