Editorial: Plugging the leaks

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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OPINION: The harm done by synthetic drugs is a hidden one. To most people.

The people who do know, though - health and youth workers, social agencies and police, schools and church groups - have become so alarmed they've done something about it.

They've joined forces and approached Timaru District Mayor Janie Annear, as chair of the Safer Communities group.

Their concern: that young people taking legal highs were suffering side effects including panic attacks, anxiety, extreme agitation, a heart attack and psychosis.

So Mrs Annear made a "strong request" of the neighbourhood dairies, and they've agreed not to stock the legal highs. As soon as they run out of stock that is, which is fair enough.

The initiative is to be applauded. A genuine concern, acted on pro-actively, with the moral challenge accepted.

But, unfortunately, it won't make the problem go away.

Two Stafford St retailers have refused to follow suit, so there are still outlets.

And even if they joined in, young people don't have to drive far to buy the drugs. Or travel at all if they order by courier.

The real difference will come when all synthetic drugs are banned under a law to go through Parliament. It's thought this will be by the middle of the year, but don't bank on that.

And then the legal highs may become like cannabis - available underground, with all the difficulties the associated criminality brings.

Sorry, I don't mean to be negative, because those raising concerns have the best of intentions.

It's just that the problems are so big, and challenging.

Just look at two far-worse drugs . . . cigarettes and alcohol.

Nationally and locally people have been trying to control both for decades, with mixed success.

There's a feeling the corner has been turned with cigarettes, but it has taken some extreme measures, with more to come.

Alcohol is another story, with the latest laws giving local councils more power next year.

All the time it seems we're plugging leaks in the dam, but if we don't try, we'll all be drowning.

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- The Timaru Herald

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