An increase in cases of long-term users of synthetic cannabis
experiencing psychiatric effects and suicidal tendencies has
prompted a warning from the Dunedin-based National Poisons
''We are seeing a trend and we are just wanting to alert
people,'' toxicologist Leo Schep told the Otago Daily Times
That alert comes after a spike in calls to the centre from
long-term users of the widely available products.
Neuropsychiatric effects associated with long-term use
include anxiety, tremors, aggression, hallucinations,
psychosis and anger.
Another recent trend was for patients to experience ongoing
paranoia linked with suicidal thoughts.
Dr Schep said peer-reviewed papers and reports to the centres
also suggested the effects of chronic use was more intense
and prolonged than any one-off exposure.
Paranoia and hallucinations may be triggered following
exposure to some products, but not all users were
experiencing adverse effects.
''It won't affect all people, nor act as a trigger for those
smoking it. But it definitely does in some people.''
The centre received nearly 150 calls concerning synthetic
cannabis products of which 30, and the most recent, were
concerning chronic use.
''These people who smoke synthetic cannabinoid products are
thinking they are touching things, they are hearing things
and they are seeing things.''
Dr Schep said evidence also suggested the synthetic product
appeared to be addictive, and he had a simple message for
those smoking the product.
''Stop taking it.
''There comes a day, like all the drugs of addiction, where
you have to move on.''
Sergeant Chris McLellan, of Dunedin, said police were dealing
almost with daily cases of long-term users who were
''agitated and having psychotic episodes''.
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told the ODT it was a
''matter of real concern that any products would have that
impact on those who use them''.
''While I am overseas at the moment, I will be seeking
further information from health officials on this issue.
''This is exactly why the pending psychoactive substances
legislation is so important, and I expect to be introducing
that very soon so that it can take effect from August when
the temporary notices begin to expire,'' Mr Dunne said.