Just when you thought that the world was finally getting to grips with the horrific scourge that is synthetic cannabis, along comes another damning report from the other side of the world. In this instance, it’s New Zealand that seems to be experiencing a spate of terrifying overdoses and fatalities, directly linked to various illegal substances passing themselves offer as cannabis substitutes.
The situation is so serious that the highest-ranking police force and New Zealand’s chief coroner have issued an urgent public health warning. In Auckland alone, the last month has so far brought at least seven fatalities directly linked with synthetic cannabis use. Nevertheless, authorities are convinced that the true extent of the problem on a national basis is exponentially worse than anyone currently realises.
Chief coroner Deborah Marshall warned the public across New Zealand of the well-documented dangers of experimenting with potentially deadly synthetic cannabis.
“I’ve also been advised by St John that there have been a significant number of non-fatal cases where people have been hospitalised after using the drug, which is known to cause potentially fatal seizures,” she said.
“While the police and coronial investigations are still at an early stage, and the final causes of death have yet to be established, the number of cases where synthetic cannabis appear to have been a contributing factor has prompted me to issue this public warning.”
Not every experience with synthetic cannabis results in death, but hundreds are finding themselves in need of emergency medical attention – often after as much as a single use. In fact, ambulance services in New Zealand stated that they are now responding to more than 20 cases of adverse reactions to synthetic cannabis, every single day.
Given that simple public health warnings like these often go entirely ignored, authorities in New Zealand have decided to take a rather more drastic and dramatic step. Last week, they released CCTV footage taken from a street in Auckland, showing a man smoking synthetic cannabis using a DIY pipe fashioned from a water bottle. Almost immediately after smoking the substance, he begins violently vomiting and subsequently collapses on a public pavement.
As is the case across much of the world, New Zealand is working hard to rid its streets of synthetic cannabis and prevent it from re-entering the market. Unfortunately, these so-called ‘legal highs’ are modified, manufactured and distributed at such a rate that it is almost impossible for law enforcement authorities to keep up with them.
Despite being passed off as substances that are supposed to replicate the effects of cannabis, synthetic cannabis has absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with the real-deal. It is instead simply a measure of random dried plant matter which is sprayed with an often-lethal cocktail of chemicals. Once smoked, synthetic cannabis can have a dangerous or even deadly effect on the individual in question that sometimes continues indefinitely.
What’s more, it is now known to be just as addictive as heroin.
“We have grave concerns users don’t know what poisonous chemicals they are potentially putting into their bodies when they’re smoking this drug,” said Detective Inspector Lendrum on behalf of New Zealand’s highest police force.
“They [officers] are coming across people that are acting like zombies,”
“That are vomiting, lying on the street unconscious, that are stripping off in public”