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drug information

Synthetic cannabinoids

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that mimic the effect of THC – one of the ingredients in cannabis. THC is the part of cannabis that gets you ‘high’. These chemicals are added to a mixture of dried plant matter and sold under brand names such as “Kronic”, “Spice”, and “K2”. Such products were developed to be a legal alternative to cannabis, however many synthetic cannabinoids substances are now banned in New Zealand.

NOTE: as of the 8th of May, 2014 there are no psychoactive substances legally available for sale in New Zealand.

  1. What they are

    Synthetic cannabinoids are structurally different from THC (the active component of cannabis) but act in similar ways to affect the cannabinoid system in the brain.

    Synthetic cannabinoids fall into seven major structural groups:

  2. How to get help

    If you feel you or anyone you know needs help, there are a number of treatment organisations you can contact confidentially.

    DrugHelp is a uniquely New Zealand website for people looking for help with their own or someone else’s drug use. DrugHelp shares the stories, experiences, insight and hope of people who have been there – people who have abused drugs and found a way through.

  3. Withdrawal

    The first few days may be very intense and some users have reported strong symptoms and cravings for a few weeks. Most people can get through mild withdrawal by knowing what to expect and taking care of themselves by way of rest, mild exercise and keeping hydrated. Some natural remedies such as kava kava and valerian may help with sleep or agitation, with people also reporting a gradual return of well-being including increased energy, clarity of thought, motivation, productivity and happiness.

  4. Health effects

    We don’t know much about the health effects of synthetic cannabinoids. Many synthetic cannabinoids have only recently been developed. They have not been approved for human consumption and there is there is very limited information available regarding their short and long-term effects.

  5. Dependence, addiction and overdose risk

    There is limited research evidence around the dependence, addiction and overdose risk from synthetic cannabinoid use.

  6. Law and penalties

    New Zealand

    Synthetic cannabinoids are controlled under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013.

    NOTE: as of the 8th of May, 2014 there are no psychoactive substances legally available for sale in New Zealand.

    The key features of the law and penalties under the Act are:

  7. Drug trends

    Very little research data is available on the use of synthetic cannabinoids in New Zealand. However, increasing demand for products during 2013 and early 2014, rising presentations to emergency departments, increasing reports from health providers and increased marketing and media attention suggested usage rates were increasing prior to all products being recalled from the market as of the 8th of May 2014

  8. Links

    A list of relevant links to further information and resources about synthetic cannabinoids: