Drug addict who spoke out now fears for his safety

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 08/04/2014
Jesse Murray
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
DOWN ON HIGHS: Jesse Murray was among protestors outside R18 shop on Christchurch's Lincoln Road to protest the sale of legal highs and synthetic cannabis. Murray, 17, who is addicted to synthetic cannabis, coughs up blood all day as he says it has ripped his stomach linings and claims to have lost 30kg.

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A 17-year-old synthetic cannabis addict is seeking help after being threatened for speaking out about the dangers of the drug.

Jesse Murray was sleeping rough with his girlfriend, Jessica, in Addington but said since the story of his struggle became public he no longer felt safe.

He said synthetic cannabis users who were upset with his portrayal of the drug had chased, assaulted and threatened to kill him and Jessica.

''People are so addicted they see a face in the paper and they direct all their anger toward me.'' 

He said he wanted a place to stay where they could feel safe and not ''have to watch our backs every two seconds''.

He had joined a protest on Saturday that advocated the banning of the product.

Jesse said he and Jessica wanted to get clean from the drug, which he began smoking three years ago. 

He had tried twice to enter a youth rehabilitation programme at Auckland's Odyssey House  but left both times. 

Each time he tried to quit he began to vomit blood and convulse.

The drug had eaten away at his stomach lining and he spat  blood constantly.

Odyssey House in Christchurch welcomed Jesse to speak to it about his options.

Youth service team leader Jim Marsters  said withdrawing from synthetic cannabis was similar to coming off methamphetamine.

It was an increasing problem in younger people, he said.

''They experience a lot more anger and aggression.'' 

Many needed medication to help them detox, Marsters said. 

Jesse would be a candidate for their residential programme, however, he discouraged partners from being a part of that process.

''He needs to focus on his own treatment.'' 

City Mission alcohol and drug treatment manager Jan Spence said she would be happy to see Jesse and Jessica.

''It's all there for people but they have to want to do it.''

A family friend in Auckland, Anna Piekarska, said Jesse's old school friends had been touched by his story and wondered how they could help him.

The Salvation Army's Bridge Programme had also reached out to him and told him to visit to see whether he was eligible for help.

Jesse did not regret speaking out against the drug or telling his story.

''If one person has to go through hell for the betterment of everybody, then that's the way it has to be.'' 

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- The Press

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