The possible health risks of long-term use of synthetic
cannabis have begun to emerge - with the risk of suicide and
self-harm in users alarming health professionals.
The National Poisons Centre has received an increasing number
of calls associated with long-term use of synthetic cannabis
products such as Kronic.
Toxicologist Dr Leo Schep said neuropsychiatric effects
following long-term use such as anxiety, aggression and
psychosis had been noted for some time.
"Recently we have also seen a newer trend emerge with
patients experiencing ongoing paranoia linked with suicidal
An overseas peer-reviewed paper published in the past few
weeks had noted the same link, he said.
Synthetic cannabis products contain dried plant matter coated
or soaked with cannabinoids - man-made chemicals that mimic
the effect of THC, one of the ingredients in cannabis.
Little is known about both the short-term and long-term
effects of consuming the chemicals, including whether any
effects are irreversible.
New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said
what was clear was that the products were linked with
cannabis in name only.
Recent research in Japan found a product contained three
chemicals with wildly different effects - one cannabis-like,
one hallucinogenic, and the other a methamphetamine-like
"People assume that just because it is called synthetic
cannabis, it must be just like the real plant cannabis, and
have the same kind of effects.
"They are thinking it's legal and safe and just like pot. And
it absolutely isn't. So I'm not surprised that the National
Poisons Centre are beginning to get the calls that they are."
Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said the recent calls
to the poisons centre were of "real concern".
He said he would seek further information from health
officials on the issue.
In 2011 the Government banned all existing synthetic cannabis
products, including industry-leader Kronic, which had been
sold in dairies.
However, new products have skirted the ban by having a
slightly altered chemical make-up.
The bans are an interim measure while the Government works on
an overhaul of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Manufacturers will
ultimately have to prove the safety of their products before
they can be sold.
Mr Dunne said he expected the new drug regime to take effect
- Nicholas Jones of the New Zealand Herald