Help on way for legal high addiction

AUDREY MALONE
Last updated 05:00 06/05/2014

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South Canterbury agencies are framing plans to assist users when legal highs come off the shelf.

Nothing will be finalised until the new legislation is in place. The law change removing the highs from shops is expected to go through Parliament today, and police expect it will have immediate effect.

Timaru acting Sergeant Marcus Dominey said they were keeping an eye on stores selling the legal substances, and noting if there was any stockpiling. "Obviously at this point in time it is legal to do what they're doing."

Dominey said at this stage police were unsure if the new legislation would make just the selling of legal highs illegal until proven safe, or if possession would also be illegal.

He said police had seen an average of eight or nine people enter one Timaru store to purchase legal highs in its first half hour of trading each morning during the last week.

Police had been both overtly and covertly watching stores on Stafford St, he said.

Dominey said people believed to be buying the substances would try to be discreet about their purchases when they thought they were being watched.

Buyers would walk straight past the store at least once before heading back to it, pretend to look at goods outside, and then walk straight to the counter, he said.

"There is a stigma about purchasing these goods, even though they are doing nothing wrong," Dominey said.

A spokesperson for the South Canterbury District Health Board said an information sheet, "Getting Help: Psychoactive Substances" had been produced.

She said question and answer sheets regarding the looming law change, including local information, would be distributed within the next few days.

South Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Daniel Williams was unavailable to discuss any action plan developed to assist frequent users of legal highs in South Canterbury.

The SCDHB has two numbers for people to call if they believed they were addicted to the substances and wanted help with stopping:

The Alcohol Drug Helpline: 0800 787 797

The Healthline: 0800 611 116

'I NEVER WANT TO SEE THEM AGAIN'

A steady stream of South Canterbury people are getting their legal high fix each morning.

The substances, which cost $20 each, have generated constant business for Karmec Creations each morning, from opening time at 9am.

Yesterday morning, within 30 minutes of opening, more than a dozen people had visited the Stafford St shop to purchase the substances.

One user, who wished not to be named, said she was addicted. She had tried legal highs for the first time thinking if they were legal then surely they would be better than the "illegal stuff".

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After one try she was hooked, and now spends at least $20 a day on her habit.

"I can't wait for it to be taken off the shelves. I never want to see this stuff again," she said.

When the substances are removed from shelves, she said she will use positive thinking as a way to break her addiction.

"It's not like with being addicted to alcohol and you see bottle stores everywhere. Once these are gone, they are gone."

Other people who were making purchases included two women who left young children in their cars while they went into the shop. During the 30 minutes several people were approached and asked if they were purchasing legal highs.

One man said he was buying earrings, but he had no visible piercings in his ears.

Another said he was buying them because he had the day off work and wanted to "get out of his mind".

No one walked out of the store with a noticeable purchase of other goods sold in the store.

According to police Karmec Creations is the more popular of the two stops in Timaru that sells legal highs, due to price. The other outlet is Dizzy Spells.

The owner of Karmec, Aaron Wilson-Jones, is overseas and was unavailable for comment yesterday.

- The Timaru Herald

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