Teens as young as 15 using synthetic highs

HANNAH MCLEOD
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2014
Southland Times photo
BARRY HARCOURT/Fairfax NZ
Supporting Families Southland field worker for Fiordland, Northern and Eastern Southland Joanne McArthur speaking at a Te Anau Community Board meeting this month.

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Southland teens younger than 16 or 17 are using synthetic highs, social services representatives say.

Sergeant Phil Berryman, of Invercargill police Youth Services, said they had dealt with people under 16 years old who had used or were using synthetic highs.

He did not know how many the Youth Services team had dealt with, or the age of the youngest they had come across, he said.

It was likely the teens were getting the drugs from older associates, or had not been asked for ID at the shop.

Youth health centre Number 10 interim manager and nurse Jude Crump said the centre had seen patients under 18 who used synthetic highs.

"It is an issue . . . but there is not a vast number of people under 18 using."

Ms Crump said as part of every appointment, Number 10 asked patients whether they used synthetic highs and offered support services if they wanted to quit.

Adventure Development Invercargill area manager Clive McArthur said that of the teens they dealt with who used synthetic highs, most were 16 or 17.

"But [we've] certainly seen younger than that."

Synthetic highs were a concern across all age groups, he said.

"If families are concerned, we are able to meet with the family, even if the youth won't front up.

"Any use is problematic at that age. There's a perception that because it's legal, it's safe."

Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu alcohol and other drug and gambling service manager Selina Elkington said the service had met young people using synthetic highs. She would not comment specifically on ages, other than to say the service dealt with youths over the age of 12.

None of the organisations could say how many users under the age of 18 they had seen, or what the youngest age was.

Supporting Families Southland fieldworker for Fiordland, Northern and Eastern Southland, Joanne McArthur, spoke to the Te Anau Community Board last week about her concerns that people under 18 could have access to synthetic highs.

The small population of Te Anau meant 14- and 15-year-olds were often attending the same parties as adults, possibly giving them access to synthetic highs, she said.

The Southland District Council is expected to make any amendments to the Draft Combined Local Approved Products Policy at its meeting tomorrow.

The document, which outlines rules for selling synthetic highs in Southland, is expected to be adopted and put out for public consultation, with submissions closing on April 14.

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