Altered drugs 'place lives in danger'

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2013
Logan Wilson
CAMERON BURNELL/ Fairfax NZ

ON THE MEND: Logan Wilson, 19, and his mother, Kerry Robinson, in the ICU ward at Taranaki Base Hospital yesterday. Logan has been in ICU since Wednesday after a suspected overdose on synthetic cannabis. Ms Robinson wants his story to serve as a warning to others using the potent drugs.

Logan Wilson
Logan Wilson

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Synthetic cannabis manufacturers are putting lives in danger as they tweak products to get around bans, a forensic scientist says.

New Plymouth teenager Logan Wilson was admitted to hospital last week with kidney and heart failure after smoking the legal high Kryptonite.

The 19-year-old spent five days in the intensive care unit at Taranaki Base Hospital, where he was put in an induced coma and was on a ventilator.

Jake Bertie, of NZ Forensic Consultancy Solutions, told the Taranaki Daily News manufacturers were making minor modifications to the chemicals used in the products to get around government bans.

"One method that appears to have become relatively common is to replace a hydrogen atom with a fluorine atom," Mr Bertie, who has a masters in forensic science from Auckland University, for research focused on legal highs in New Zealand, said.

Although he had not analysed the chemical contents of Kryptonite, Mr Bertie said concerns had been raised over the potential danger to the kidneys by fluorinated synthetic cannabinoids.

He said two fluorinated synthetic cannabinoids,had been linked to kidney damage.

The American Centres for Disease Control recently published documented cases of kidney damage in which the victims had smoked products containing fluorinated synthetic cannabinoids, Mr Bertie said.

Taranaki District Health Board emergency department physician Greg Stevens said there was anecdotal evidence that more people who had been using the synthetic cannabis products were seeking medical treatment at hospitals. "The effects can range from confusion, headaches, nausea and being generally unwell to more-severe cases that can cause serious harm including seizures."

Dr Stevens said just because the products were not illegal it did not make them safe and he wanted to see them removed from sale.

He said friends and family of anyone who had suffered an adverse effect needed to let medical staff know what the patient had taken so that appropriate treatment could be given.

Mr Wilson, who wants his experience to serve as a warning to others to avoid the products, was moved from ICU to a ward yesterday but is still expected to spend a couple more days in hospital. His kidneys are only just working.

His mother, Kerry Robinson, said the Government should be doing more to protect the public.

"It's horrific. It's absolutely insane that it can happen in New Zealand," Ms Robinson said.

"There are certain items that you can only buy in a chemist yet you can get this in a dairy."

The Psychoactive Substances Bill is being fast-tracked through Parliament following widespread community anger at the sale of the products, and is expected to be in force by next month.

The new law will require manufacturers to prove their products are safe or pose a low risk before they can go on sale.

Logan bought the Kryptonite from New Plymouth's Belt Rd Dairy.

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In May the dairy's owner, Guo Ding Shen, was one of just a few retailers who refused to sign up to a police campaign to remove the products from sale.

- Taranaki Daily News

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