GREG RAY: Work needed on drugs

LEGAL “synthetic cannabis” has been a hot-button topic lately.

As with most recreational drugs, the arguments split between those who think drugs’  risks are so great they should be outlawed, and those who think their benefits  are  enough to keep them legally available.

Some readers complained about the terrible effects addiction to these drugs were having on their lives, either directly or indirectly through damaged loved ones.

But retailer Maria Schuler, of Hamilton, wrote in a letter to the Editor that: “The majority of customers respect the product and use it responsibly. A lot of customers use it for pain and stress relief”.

“I acknowledge that, like alcohol and prescription medication, abuse can have negative effects. Why aren’t we discussing the issue of decriminalising the use of prohibited drugs or the real issue of self-respect and self-control?’’, Ms Schuler wrote.

‘‘Why is it that some people make adult decisions, then blame everything else when things go wrong or get out of control?”

One online reader admitted letting the habit get out of control, writing that: 

“I also became very addicted to this stuff. Stealing, lying etc. I’m a young male and I’d never taken a drug when I first tried and was against drugs 100per cent. The reason for me trying it was definitely because it was legal. I tried to stop several times, never lasting longer than 24 hours,’’ he wrote.

‘‘The tobacconist I got mine from opened at 9am and I would be waiting at 8.30 along with at least 10 very uncomfortable unstable people. I started on Kronic but tried most other brands since then.’’ 

He described which brands were strongest and most addictive.

‘‘I eventually kicked it cold turkey (somehow) and had intense withdrawal symptoms for about five days. For the first three days I didn’t sleep a wink and could not even stomach a glass of water without it coming straight up. Other symptoms I had were hot and cold sweats, a fairly intense tremor, painful headaches, extreme anxiety, a little agitation but worst of all the mental craving. It was 98per cent of every thought I had.

“In the beginning three grams would last me easily two weeks but at the end three grams would last me four hours. I’d smoke cones back to back to back till I passed out bong in hand and the need for it would wake me up and I’d do the same thing till it was all gone and then go stealing.”

Reader and retired solicitor Brian Roberts sent me a copy of a book he published last year, The Drug Problem Problem, after years of watching a relative wrestle with illegal drugs. His painful conclusion?

“While drug laws remain that declare drugs illegal and users criminals, and while the manufacture and marketing of drugs is carried out by criminal gangs with no government regulation, the position will not improve. So-called synthetic drugs only exist because of loopholes in these laws,’’ Mr Roberts wrote.

Another reader, Jim Bright, has also experienced first hand the effects of addiction on a loved one.

Mr Bright now volunteers with Family Drug Support, an organisation that helps families cope with the problems that addiction brings.

 The phone number for the Family Drug Support Hotline is 1300368186 (local call cost).

Mr Bright advised that the Newcastle Cannabis Clinic (Newcastle West) can be contacted on 49236760.

I phoned the clinic to check whether it helped people with synthetic cannabis and the answer was “definitely, yes”.

The bad news? 

There’s a waiting list of six to eight weeks for an appointment after the first telephone contact.

Not much use for a troubled addict who has just admitted they have a problem and wants help now.

It seems we’ve got a lot of work to do to find the best way to handle this issue. 

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