Pubdate: Sun, 18 Dec 2011
Source: Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2011 Allied Press Limited
Author: Hamish McNeilly


Calls to the National Poisons Centre concerning fake cannabis have
stopped, but one last puff is expected over Christmas, a toxicologist

Dr Leo Schep, of the Dunedin-based National Poisons Centre, said he
was "gobsmacked" the centre was no longer fielding calls concerning
synthetic cannabinoids, such as Kronic.

In the 12 months from October 2010, the centre received 72 calls
concerning the products, which were sold as a legal substitute for
cannabis and readily available from many dairies.

"When I did the update a month ago on the statistics I was shocked how
they dropped away so quickly.

"The stats summarise what is going on out there."

Calls peaked in July when the contaminant phenazepam was found in some
products, but no calls were received in October.

"These are stunning results and the wider medical fraternity needs to
be aware of what is going on."

An article for The New Zealand Medical Journal noted the most reported
symptoms included vomiting, drowsiness, anxiety, psychosis,
unconsciousness and one documented case of a seizure.

Dr Schep said he decided to take a proactive approach to synthetic
cannabinoids after noting the harm the products could cause, and his
frustration with how BZP, a formerly legal synthetic drug, was handled.

"This was particularly striking because I watched BZP unfold between
2003 and 2008, with all the inaction and the patients ringing up with
the same symptoms over and over and over again."

Asked if the Government's handling of synthetic cannabis, in placing a
12-month ban on such products, was a template to deal with future drug
problems, he said each new case had to be judged on its merits.

"There will always be stuff in an underground market but the problem
with [synthetic cannabinoids] was that they were so readily available,
and the Government has addressed that."

However, he praised the Government's approach to synthetic
cannabinoids, and putting the onus back on manufacturers.

"We anticipate this is not going to repeat in the future.

"We are happy how the Government has dealt with it, and we are
confident the Government will continue along the same lines to
minimise the harm to New Zealanders."

Clinicians around the country were anticipating a possible surge
around Christmas from those who had stockpiled the products, and "I
suspect there will be a rush to emergency departments."

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne told the Otago Daily Times it
was extremely satisfying calls to emergency departments and the
National Poisons Centre had dropped off.

Next year, permanent legislation would be put in place so no new
products could come on the market unless they were proven to be safe.

Mr Dunne said the Government had taken "a deliberate approach to get
it right, and it has paid off".

"We had to make the ban work; we have done that."

The industry's response to initial legislation was that it would be
back "with different versions of the same product and that this
[legislation] would be unworkable; the fact we haven't been flooded in
that way proves that was hype and we got it right".

He was confident there was little stockpiling of synthetic cannabinoid
products, and "we have substantially closed it and haven't had the
flood of all these alternatives that we were threatened with".
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.