K2 one of the legal high substances banned this year. Photo
Temporary paralysis, daily vomiting, seizures, coughing
up ''black stuff'', violent mood swings and insomnia were all
par for the course for those addicted to psychoactive
substances, a former addict says.
The woman, who asked not to be named, told the story of her
addiction at a public meeting in Queenstown on Thursday night
to discuss the impact of the illegal ''legal highs'' on the
community and what the Queenstown Lakes District Council may
be able to do to control their sale, distribution and use
Suffering insomnia, she began using the products about four
years ago to aid sleep, thinking they would be ''safe because
it was legal''.
She was soon gripped by her addiction, owed money, lost her
job and suffered ongoing and serious health problems.
''By the end of it, I was having to wake up every hour to
''I couldn't sleep without it - without it I'd go one or two
days without sleeping.
''I vomited every morning ... I ended up with a stomach
About six months before quitting she suffered a seizure - a
common side effect, she said.
A couple of weeks before quitting she ended up in Southland
Hospital - the beginning of her ultimate recovery - after
presenting in Queenstown with a migraine.
''I couldn't talk or walk or eat or anything.
''The people at the hospital [in Queenstown] sent me to
Invercargill because they thought I had a brain bleed or
''While I was there I couldn't talk or do anything for
The woman spent two nights in hospital and was ''not allowed
The rest gave her body a chance to rid itself of some of the
product and when she returned home she was able to sleep,
gradually starting to feel ''better and better''.
''I didn't want to go back to that.
''I tried to avoid friends [who were still addicted].
''I know a lot of people and pretty much everyone was smoking
She and many of the people she knew were offered the products
''on tick'', essentially creating an IOU for the retailer.
While the woman owed about $700 to the retailer, the debt was
''pretty low compared to some people''.
''They were giving them all of their money, not paying rent,
not buying food.''
She said one nearby shop owner found addicts attempting to
get money by telling stories, including saying their children
had died, or attempting to steal money to pay for the
Despite the debt, the woman said she often received text
messages offering her samples of new products.
One of her friends was allegedly used as a ''guinea pig'' for
one of the companies.
''They were supplying her with free legals. Some of it made
her really sick and make her have seizures.
''She'd black out for five hours. They didn't care.
''They kept giving her more and more and she'd keep smoking
''She had a seizure in front of me - she couldn't talk or
anything for three hours.''
She knew of children as young as 13 being sold the products,
but the retailers ''didn't care''.
''It's more money for them.''
However, it was not just the users who were affected, as the
products wrought havoc on families and the community.
Many of her friends had been kicked out of home and had lost
their jobs as a result of their addiction.
And despite the ban on the sale of the products, they were
still readily available, she said.
''Friends stockpiled before it was [banned] and [sell] it for
double the price.
''I could still find it.''
She had now been off the products for a year and had no
desire to take them again.
It took about eight months before she was able to walk
properly again and she coughed up ''black stuff'' for six
The effects were ''1000 times worse'' than cannabis, she
''Being high was the only good thing.''
The meeting was the first step in engaging the community to
find out how it wanted the council to deal with psychoactive
QLDC regulatory manager Lee Webster said the council had four
options - to do nothing; create a Local Approved Product
Policy to determine where they could be sold in the district
and how close premises could be to each other and to
sensitive areas such as schools; create a bylaw; or to use
the district plan to help control their sale and
A joint forum with the Wanaka Alcohol Group will be held in
Wanaka on Wednesday at the Lake Wanaka Centre from 7pm.
Following that meeting, Mr Webster said, he would provide a
report to the council to determine what the next steps would