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Date published: 11th August 2017 | Type: News

To get to grips with the tragic situation following reported deaths caused by consumption of unknown drugs, better information is needed. Russell Brown has prepared this backgrounder to so we can be clear what we’re talking about when it comes to ‘synthetic cannabis’. 

Executive summary:

  • Synthetic cannabinoids appeared in Europe in 2005 and the following year in New Zealand.
  • The chemicals in illicit smoking packets in 2017 are different to – and very likely more dangerous than – those on the market before the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013, and those briefly regulated under the Act.
  • The recent "bad batch" in Auckland is likely to be "bad" because of the way it's dosed, rather than the presence of impurities or contaminants.
  • The wave of acute ED presentations and deaths in Auckland is not a nationwide problem. Even in Auckland, detox and services are seeing fewer people dependent on synthetic cannabis than they were in 2014.
  • Acute presentations have come in waves in other countries too.
  • Legalising natural cannabis now isn't likely to be a magic wand.

What is synthetic cannabis? Should we even be using that term?

How long has this been going on?

We've heard about possible toxic additives in synthetics: is that likely to be the problem?

What's the effect of these chemicals? Why do people take them?

Why do so many users need emergency treatment or even die?

Are there other health issues?

Where do these chemicals come from?

Would legalising natural cannabis fix the synthetics problem?

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