Synthetic cannabis use declining: study

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 02/04/2014

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Kronic is on the out and crystal meth is making a comeback, a new study of Kiwi drug habits show.

The illicit drug monitoring system study shows that, after a brief rise to prominence, synthetic cannabis is already declining among drug users.

The study was based on interviewing 300 frequent drug users in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

It showed that in 2012, even before tougher regulations were passed, synthetic products such as Kronic and K2 were far less popular than a year before.

Only one in four ecstasy users smoked synthetic cannabis, down from nearly half the year before. Among P smokers, there was a 32 per cent chance they also smoked synthetic cannabis, down from 41 per cent the previous year.

Lead researcher Chris Wilkins, of Massey University, said synthetic cannabis's popularity may have fallen amid growing awareness of the negative effects, such as vomiting and seizure.

"I think initially people were curious but they misunderstood what synthetic cannabis is and underestimated the health risks."

Some synthetic cannabis brands, such as Kronic, were already being banned in 2012 and growing negative publicity would also have affected their popularity. But while synthetic cannabis was less popular, the trend overall was for Kiwis to be exposed to more, not fewer, drugs.

Wilkins said the internet made sharing the blueprints for making new synthetic drugs easier than ever. This meant users were more likely not to know what they were taking, as new drugs were passed off as familiar products.

A potent synthetic psychedelic, called NBOMe, has been linked to overdose deaths overseas, but in New Zealand is often mistakenly sold as less dangerous LSD. Ecstasy is also increasingly being linked to psychotic episodes and admissions to hospital. However, this may be because the pills being passed off as ecstasy are actually an unpredictable cocktail of other drugs.

Abuse of prescription drugs is also rising, with drug users far more likely to be using oxycodone, a powerful and highly addictive opiate painkiller.

One surprise of the survey is the resurgence of imported crystal methamphetamine, or "ice". Ice is distinct from domestically produced P, and is sometimes considered more "pure".

Wilkins said its rising popularity was difficult to explain, but might be linked to police disrupting domestic manufacture of P.

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- The Dominion Post

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