POLICE are warning of the dangers of synthetic cannabis after a 15-year-old boy suffered overdose symptoms on Tuesday night in Tamworth after smoking the drug.
At 9.40pm police and paramedics were called to Locks Ln where the teenager was reportedly convulsing and suffering from an adverse reaction to a form of synthetic cannabis. He was taken to Tamworth hospital where he received treatment.
Sergeant Stephen Furhmann from the Oxley Local Area Command said the synthetic drugs were widely available across NSW under street names such as Black Widow, Spice, Venom or Kronic.
The drugs, which have a cannabis-like effect when smoked, are known to impair a person’s judgement, creating hazards when an affected person operates machinery or drives a vehicle.
More than 200 forms of the synthetic drugs are available but only seven are legal.
Synthetic cannabis is relatively new to the Tamworth area, according to the city’s crime manager, Inspector Phil O’Reilly
He said police were continuing their inquiries into who was selling the substance in the area and if it contained prohibited chemicals.
“I can indicate we were alerted by community members about the presence of what appears to be synthetic cannabis being sold from a business in Tamworth,” Inspector O’Reilly said.
“We’ve obtained a sample and forwarded it on for analysis to determine whether it’s a substance which contains one of the chemical components which are now prohibited in NSW.
“We’re waiting on the results of that particular exhibit.”
Inspector O’Reilly said the incident involving the 15-year-old boy was the only report of an adverse reaction Tamworth police had received.
“There are some obvious health and safety risks from the consumption of substances that are mind-altering,” he said.
One of the state’s most senior police officers, Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie, said officers were seeing an increase in synthetic drugs.
“We are seeing an increasing presence in those types of substances,” he said.
“The warning here is people need to be very sure these substances are in fact legal and they’re not harmful.
“In some instances we’ve located these substances on people and they’ve turned out to be illegal.
“At the moment this is a case-by-case issue for us but again I do see some real risks.”
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell banned several ingredients used in the products this year, but formula changes have allowed the products to remain on shelves.
Sergeant Furhmann warned that “just because it can be bought over the counter, doesn’t mean it’s safe”.
“They’re all made from different compounds. They may be sold as ‘natural drugs’ but the ingredients are definitely not natural,” Sergeant Furhmann said.
Hunter New England Mental Health Peel cluster clinical director Alistair Barron told The Leader in August the synthetic variants could potentially be more concentrated than natural marijuana.
“This is something we’re going to see more of,” he said.
Tamworth police are asking the public to be aware the drugs are out there and are a danger to users, just like any other form of drug.