User: Legal highs 'curb chronic pain'

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 13:36 02/05/2014
Paula Davis
DEREK FLYNN/Fairfax NZ
PAULA DAVIS: 'I'm angry at the young people for ruining it for me.'

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A Blenheim woman who regularly smokes synthetic cannabis is angry at young users for getting the product pulled from shelves.

In 2006, Paula Davis, 37, of Mayfield, was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that causes overwhelming fatigue, numbness and balance issues.

Her weight got down to 40 kilograms after the trigger in her brain to tell her she was hungry stopped working.

She injected herself every second day with a medication to reduce the severity of relapses and slow the progression of the disease.

But the medication came with side effects, including exhaustion, fatigue and loss of appetite. She stopped taking it in October last year and started smoking cannabis to help her eat and sleep.

Her teenage son was the one who got her on to synthetic cannabis when he told her about a legal alternative.

"I was a bit dodgy about it to begin with because of all the stories, but when you do smoke it it's the same as pot," she said.

"It's actually better because I can't smoke pot now because it's too harsh on my lungs."

She's back to a healthy 60kg and sleeps every night, she said.

The Government's announcement on Sunday that new legislation would remove legal highs from shelves until they were proved safe frustrated her, she said. "I'm angry at the young people for ruining it for me. There are people out there who can control themselves, but any kid is going to have problems with any type of drug or alcohol."

She doubted younger people who smoked legal highs followed the recommended instructions of one gram a day, Davis said.

Every day she would have between three and five smokes from a pipe, equivalent to one 2.5g packet a week.

She spent $130 on Wednesday stocking up on legal highs, and planned to buy the same amount next week before they were gone, she said.

When the product is pulled from shelves, she would most likely begin smoking cannabis again to trigger her appetite, although she wasn't looking forward to the prospect of "hanging out at tinny houses", she said.

She believed 90 per cent of people using it would find an alternative when the product was banned. "I think law abiding citizens who use it for medicinal purposes are suffering because of the minor few people that are abusing the drug. Every drug has the abusers and the users."

She believed the legal age of synthetic cannabis should have been raised to 21 rather than banning it completely, she said.

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But some brands did cause psychotic side effects and should never have been made legal, she said.

Two types of synthetic cannabis, Radiation and Red-X, caused stomach cramps and withdrawals.

"I wasn't eating, it suppressed my appetite, and when you didn't smoke it the next day, you'd feel sick and dry retching in the morning."

All brands should have been tested thoroughly before it had been made legal, she said. "It's frustrating more than anything, especially for the older people. I know a lot of people who smoke it for pain."

- Marlborough

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