Legal highs damaged son's brain, says mum
A mother whose son "flipped his lid" at the peak of a synthetic cannabis addiction is furious the products are still being sold over the counter.
The Cambridge woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said her 20-year-old son was now clean but experts could not say whether he would regain full brain function.
Getting him clean also cost the "well-to-do" family $30,000 in private rehab fees.
"We have been through a nightmare," she said. "If we hadn't put our son into rehab when we did, we probably would have lost him.
"It got to that point that he was ready to. He would have done something to himself or the stuff would have killed him."
The boy's habit started at high school when he smoked synthetic highs which were sold in dairies beside lollipops.
They "got a hit out of it" and thought it was "wonderful", his mother said.
"Of course, like most drugs, you have to keep taking it.
"He managed to hide it from me for a couple of years and it wasn't until it actually started messing with his head [that it showed]."
She said her boy had crystal clear blue eyes until the dope drained the spark out of them.
She watched his behaviour become increasingly bizarre.
It was as if he was hearing voices from somewhere else, she said.
"All of a sudden, he'd be sitting quiet and he'd jump up and do something like flip over the coffee table.
"I'd ask him: why did you do that and he'd say: I don't know.
"This stuff, it just does unbelievably strange things and even they don't know why they do the things they do.
"Like the time he got the frozen peas out of the freezer and came into the lounge and proceeded to toss them around the room."
Breaking point came when her son "flipped his lid".
He "went right off" and "flew into a rage".
"I came out here and there were things all over the place.
"He had his face right up into mine and he actually threatened me and that was the first time that I'd ever felt threatened by one of my own children.
"He said to me, not exactly I'm going to kill you, but he looked me right in the eye, right up close to my face, and he said something about you need to fix this."
At that point she sought outside help.
The waiting list for public mental health care was too long, the mother said, so they sent their boy to a private rehabilitation centre in Auckland six months ago.
The spark has come back to his eyes now. There is colour in his cheeks and he has gained weight. His brain is yet to move out of second gear.
Synthetic cannabis sellers and profiteers are "lower than low" in his mother's eyes.
"They might not be doing anything illegally wrong but morally they're doing a lot wrong.
"They really are mucking up a whole generation of children.
"Some of these kids may never get their working brain back as a direct result of this stuff.
"The psychiatrist was saying they just don't know how much of the thought processes will come back."
She said it affected all tiers of society, not just the poor.
"It attacks all walks of life. It really is evil. We don't need the stuff."