Dangerous Bangkok Betty is back

A HUNTER woman whose adult son was hospitalised and has probably permanent ‘‘cognitive impairment’’ after a bender on synthetic cannabis says she is shocked to learn the drugs are back in shops despite them being supposedly outlawed in 2013.

Two people reportedly died in Queensland in January after smoking a similar product and the man’s mother says she is speaking out to warn the public of the continuing dangers.

The woman* said her son had been smoking a drug called Bangkok Betty Thai Tea, bought in sealed plastic packets from the Nauti And Nice sex shop at Beresfield.

Maitland police raided that shop and a Nauti And Nice outlet at Rutherford on Thursday afternoon and seized 41 packets of Bangkok Betty.

Maitland detective Sergeant Mitch Dubojski said the seized material was being sent for chemical analysis in Sydney.

 Sergeant Dubojski said the owners of the shops had contacted the police after the raids and claimed the materials seized were not illegal and not intended to be smoked.

‘‘I have been informed that there could be other products for sale under names such as Hot Chocolate, and they are claiming they are specifically aphrodisiacs, and deny they are synthetic cannabis,’’  Sergeant Dubojski said.

He said no charges had been laid ‘‘pending further investigation’’.

The mother said her son, in his early 30s, had been in stable employment in heavy industry. Her ‘‘mother’s intuition’’ told her something was  wrong  in the days before her son ended up in hospital.

‘‘He was a fit, 100-kilogram man who lost 25kilograms in a matter of weeks,’’ she said. ‘‘He is out of hospital now but he had bleeding on the brain and doctors say his brain impairment may be permanent.

‘‘He is suicidal and I don’t want to make things any worse but I had to speak out beause I don’t want any other family to go through what we are going through.’’

She said he had bought the synthetics after being unable to buy real mariijuana.

‘‘He said they sold it to him over the counter and the first time he smoked it he vomited his heart up and threw the packet away,’’ she said.

‘‘But he went back and bought more and he was hooked instantly. He said the withdrawals left him shaking and sweating and trembling – he took time off work – and he spent nearly $1000 on the stuff in the last two weeks.’’

The use of synthetic drugs reached epidemic levels in the Hunter Region earlier this decade because they were then considered legal and largely undetectable in  workplace  tests.

As calls to outlaw ‘‘Kronic’’ and similar products grew, the Gillard and O’Farrell governments added new ‘‘cannabanoid’’ compounds to illegal drug schedules in July 2011, but the move had little if any impact.

The most recent law change was in September 2013, when the state government announced ‘‘ground-breaking’’ laws that were supposed to close loopholes that allowed drug makers to keep their products on the market by ‘‘tweaking’’ illegal sustances to make them legal.

 Sergeant Dubojski said the Bangkok Betty sample needed to be tested to check whether  the active chemical or chemicals were banned under the 2013 laws. 

Signs of a synthetic comeback emerged last month when two Mackay men, aged 33 and 41, died after reportedly smoking a product called ‘‘Full Moon Tea’’.

Hunter New England Healthwas unable to say how many people it had treated for synthetic drug problems but drug and alcohol director Adrian Dunlop said the numbers of admissions did fall after the 2103 laws.

‘‘Due to the constantly evolving chemical make-up of these different drugs it is challenging to pinpoint the exact rates of use and how the Hunter compares to the rest of the state,’’ Dr Dunlop said.

He said health authorities were yet to understand the long-term impacts of  the drugs but heavy use could result in ‘‘panic attacks, severe anxiety, depression, hallucinations and pre-psychosis’’.

*The Newcastle Herald has agreed not to publish identifying details of the family.

Hunter New England Health drug and alcohol assessment service 1300 660059

Cannabis clinic 4923 6760

Stimulant clinic 4923 6776