Legal highs rock young Timaru males
Young males are spending up to a month in Timaru's Kensington Centre after suffering synthetic drug-induced psychosis.
And while other areas of the country are seeing a drop in the number of negative user reactions since the July law change, that was not the case here, according to South Canterbury District Health Board clinical director, mental health, Dr Cecilia Smith-Hamel.
Kensington was still seeing a big number of young males, aged in their late teens to early 20s, who had been badly affected by the drugs, she said.
This included a recent cluster of five people.
Those suffering from the ill-effects were spending three to four weeks in hospital, being treated with anti-psychotic medication.
Before the Psychoactive Substances Bill came into effect there were "smatterings" of admissions, but data has not been collected long enough to determine whether the cluster was an exceptional event or related to the law change being slow to show an effect.
"Some people would still have stock [of synthetic cannabis] from previous supplies," Dr Smith-Hamel said.
Six products have so far been refused applications by the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority, as they were assessed to pose more than a low risk of harm, while others are still undergoing testing.
Fully in favour of the changes, although she wished they had been implemented sooner, Dr Smith-Hamel said there was a balance between banning all substances and forcing them underground and controlling them.
She said it was important for medical professionals to report specific synthetic cannaboids' harmful effects to the National Poisons Centre so they could be banned from sale.
"Only those with no harm attached will be allowed to be sold," she said.
Some patients got a fright from the experience and never touched drugs again, while others went straight back to them once discharged, she said. The type of young people ending up in hospital was across the board, she said.
"They do not fit any specific demographic, but without exception they have been using something, and been exposed to cannabis. They are not naive."
Marijuana use could also cause psychosis, but usually after prolonged use, followed by heavy use.
"This stuff [synthetic cannabinoids] may not be used chronically and people still get psychosis, some are mixing it with drink and cannabis, making it an even more potent cocktail."
The long-term effects of its use were still unknown.
"It is much more problematic than cannabis."
The Psychoactive Substances Act will force manufacturers of synthetic cannabinoids to prove their product is safe before it can be sold.
The act requires businesses to apply to the Ministry of Health for a licence to sell the drugs. In Timaru there are two outlets licensed to sell the products.
- © Fairfax NZ News