Fear of flood of drug addicts

A Timaru drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre is waiting for an upsurge of legal high addicts.

Caroline House has already treated one person who was addicted to legal highs, and staff expect that number to rise substantially as long as legal highs continue to be sold.

Manager Diane Welsh said the situation was being made worse by the selling of synthetic cannabis to those under the age of 18, with Caroline House aware that a supplier was on-selling the drug in the Royal Arcade.

She said although some people could be genetically predisposed to addiction, legal highs could change the brain chemistry in anyone and cause addiction.

"They are scary substances."

Welsh said she was concerned about the choices some young people were making.

"They don't know what they are putting into their bodies, sometimes they [legal highs] are made from rat poison. Legal highs can bring on schizophrenia in someone who hasn't displayed signs of it previously," Welsh said.

A local retailer, who chose not to reveal her identity because of safety concerns for her children, said there were two men who bought legal highs to on-sell to youth in the Royal Arcade.

One of those men had verbally abused a former employee of hers in front of her children and had walked past the shop, making a gesture of shooting a gun with his hand. "We have asked the cops to drive past some mornings when we open because we don't feel safe," she said.

She said although she had been in contact with the police about what was happening, until someone was caught in the act there was nothing that could be done.

Timaru Police Senior Sergeant Randall Tikitiki said he was unaware that anything was happening in the arcade, but that was not to say it was not happening.

There were about 80 police in Timaru and it was impossible to know about everything that was being worked on, he said.

Karmec Creations owner Aaron Wilson-Jones said any activity that had happened in the Royal Arcade was just after Christmas, and he had worked with the police to ensure it was no longer an issue.

"It was never in large quantities. We inherited a problem from the dairies," Wilson-Jones said.

He said his store acts responsibly in selling a legal product at an R20 restriction where he could chose to sell at a R18, but thought it was safer to keep it at a higher age.

"What more can we do? At the end of the day we are all about harm reduction," Wilson-Jones said.

The Timaru Herald