Winton declares war on legal-highs blight

Last updated 05:00 27/03/2014

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Winton is up in arms over the effects of legal highs and is launching a campaign to get them off the streets.

More than 150 people gathered at a public meeting on Tuesday night to hear from users, emotional family members, police and social services who painted a horrible picture of destruction.

"Young lives are being ruined by legal highs," Diana MacAskill, the mother of an addict, told the meeting.

"I saw my daughter having a psychotic episode, foaming at the mouth . . . with two policemen holding her down."

Former paramedic Wayne Harper had also seen the worst of legal highs and he implored those attending the meeting to stand up and be counted.

"I've seen people trying to commit suicide . . . going psychotic. This stuff drags families in and the circle just gets bigger . . and dirtier."

Youth drug and mental health provider Clive McArthur shocked the meeting with revelations that close to 100 per cent of the young Southlanders they supported were affected by legal highs.

"Two or three years ago this wasn't on the radar, now every young person we see is having issues with it."

While the highs looked like cannabis, their effects were more like amphetamines, which include drugs such as speed.

The problem was widespread, said Winton GP Phillip White.

"Don't think this is a south Invercargill problem, it's happening here [in Winton] and it's horrendous."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said his email inbox had been running hot in the past 24 hours and "I've heard stories that would tear your heart out".

He would organise a delegation to Wellington to ensure Southlanders' concerns were heard.

Lindsay Butcher, 83, of Winton, dared anyone to set up a legal highs shop in Winton - "see if they can deal with the hassles we'll give them".

Elizabeth Merito of Invercargill called for better education on the issue.

"If we don't, we're in for a shocker in the next five years if this stuff stays legal."

Tracey Metternich, of Winton, told everyone to take their concerns to the top. "We just want to see these things gone and to keep our children safe."

Winton Community Board head John McHugh stunned the meeting when he read the warning message on a packet of legal highs.

"Not for human consumption," he said.

Submissions on a draft Southland District Council policy to control the sale of legal highs, which could permit sales in Winton and Te Anau, close on April 14.

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- The Southland Times

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