Policeman's family put 'through hell' by son's legal high use

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2013
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The teenager lost his job and came close to losing his family after developing a full-on addiction to legal highs.

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The teenage son of a Taranaki police officer lost his job and came close to losing his family after developing a full-on addiction to legal highs.

"We've been through hell and back. It turned our son into a very angry violent young man," the officer told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday.

The officer, who the paper agreed not to name, spoke out yesterday to tell the community of the year-long battle the family had in getting their normally laid-back, fun-loving and healthy young man off the synthetic drug.

No one was safe from what was a far more dangerous psychoactive drug than cannabis, the parents said.

"It's no candy-coated drug. It's turning nice young people into absolute monsters," they warned.

"But young ones have this misconception that because it's legal it's safe."

When their son lost his job, he ended up at home "off his face, all day, every day", they said.

Totally at a loss as to what to do, the couple headed to the alcohol and drug service for advice.

"When he would go into withdrawal it was like watching someone on crack. I thought, that is not my son. It affected the whole family," they said.

But his parents stood by him and he eventually managed to break the habit.

"The first 72 hours was hellish," they said.

Withdrawal included not being able to sleep. This was assisted by taking prescribed sleeping pills.

The officer said police were dealing with family members in the same situation coming into the station in tears and at their wits' end as to what to do.

After their own experience, their advice is to get to alcohol and drug counselling which has a support group for families, and a GP for expert help.

"Our son is back working again. He's since helped get his mates off it too. There is no way in hell he'd take it again. But it's fingers crossed that he's OK."

One of their friends in his early 20s was not so lucky. He became psychotic and had to be admitted to the psychiatric ward.

They are angry that politicians were too slow in controlling something so dangerous which should never have been allowed into the country, they said.

"The sooner this stuff is banned the better."

Taranaki Secondary Schools Principals Association chairman Mark Bowden said yesterday the legal highs were causing problems for young people across the country.

Mondays were providing the most difficult days for bad behaviour "when things spill over from the weekend into the beginning of the school week".

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Schools which now realised what they were dealing with were taking action to educate their students.

In Spotswood College an alcohol and drug counsellor will address the school assembly next week.

Mr Bowden said he personally took action at the beginning of this term, calling police to alert them after becoming aware New Plymouth dairies were selling the legal highs to young people.

Under the Smokefree Environments Act 1990 it is illegal to sell the legal highs to anyone aged under 18 years.

Fortunately the wider community was becoming more aware of the dangers after putting two and two together. Stratford parents who put pressure on their local dairy were a good example, he said.

Mr Bowden said a lot of damage had been done in the past two years. "It is very sad that it is affecting some of our more vulnerable. And it's inter-generational."

- Taranaki Daily News

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