Warning over dangerous batch of synthetic cannabis in Taranaki

Police have this morning issued a warning to the public about a dangerous batch of synthetic cannabinoids - also known as synthetics or synnies - in Taranaki.

Synthetic cannabinoid. Source: NZ Police

The joint warning with the Ministry of Health today comes after High Alert, a drug information organisation, issued a notification about the synthetic cannabinoid 4F-MDMB-BICA, which is believed to be linked to at least one death and another person taken to hospital in the region.

The batch of the Class C drug has also been implicated in a number of deaths overseas and other harm events in New Zealand, according to High Alert. They say it's possible the dangerous batch is elsewhere in the country.

Police added that there has been a second death also thought to be linked to synthetic cannabinoids. Police are making inquiries into both deaths on behalf of the coroner.

Police and the Ministry of Health today urged members of the community to call 111 immediately if they see anyone who appears to be experiencing an adverse reaction to synthetic drugs.

The side effects include, fast or irregular heartbeat, sedation or drowsiness, slowed reaction times, difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting, seizures, tremors and temporary paralysis.

"In Waitara, a community-focused alcohol and other drug treatment service has been running since July 2020, providing treatment, actively engaging with whānau, and working with key community agencies to provide support for people affected by harmful drug use," Ministry of Health group manager of addiction Richard Taylor said.

Anyone affected by harmful drug use, and friends and whānau of those using synthetic drugs, are urged to seek help through the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 or free text 868.

"Our continued focus is on working with the community to reduce drug harm, and that includes holding to account those who are manufacturing and supplying the community with illicit drugs,” Taranaki Area Commander inspector Belinda Dewar said.

Anyone with information in relation to the manufacture and supply of synthetic cannabinoids is asked to contact police on 105, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.