Gunnedah man was 'clinically dead' after synthetic cannabis overdose

A GUNNEDAH family is fighting to get synthetic cannabis off shelves after their 20-year-old son was left “clinically dead” after an overdose.

While James Traynor visited Tamworth paramedics and emergency room doctors at Tamworth hospital yesterday to thank them, the product believed responsible for his overdose, with the street name Smokin Hot, is still being sold at a Gunnedah business.

Tamworth paramedics Andrew Etherington and Anthony Zwegers were called out at 1.30am on Thursday to reports a man was suffering an apparent drug overdose, arriving to a Gunnedah address to find Peter Traynor cradling his unconscious son in his arms.

“We thought he was deceased. He was completely unresponsive, blue in colour, and no blood pressure,” intensive care paramedic Mr Zwegers said.

“His father was very emotional and in tears.”

The paramedics started life saving procedures on the young man, inserting an artificial airway, injecting him with Narcan and beginning the resuscitation procedures.

“He had no blood pressure and a weak pulse,” Mr Zwegers said.

Both paramedics worked for half an hour on the unconscious man before rushing him to Tamworth hospital for specialist treatment.

At the hospital, emergency room doctors inserted a tube down James’s throat, and within one minute he was conscious and aware of his surroundings.

“The doctors said they’d never seen anything like it,” his mother Barbara Traynor said.

“They said we don’t like to use the word miracle but that’s what it was.”

Mrs Traynor said the moment when she woke up to “blood-curdling” screams from her son that morning would stay with her for the rest of her life.

“We found him on the bedroom floor, he was choking on his own vomit and thrashing around, he was in a psychotic state,” she said.

“It was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

Mrs Traynor said she and her husband had to sit on her son to hold him down and that he “was as strong as 30 men”.

“I thought he was going to die,” Mrs Traynor said.

She said her son had no memory of the incident at all.

“He woke up in Tamworth hospital with a tube in his throat, he had no idea of what happened.”

Mrs Traynor said her family, including James who had just recently moved back to Gunnedah for a fresh start, wanted to make sure no other family would have to go through the same ordeal.

“James wants it off the shelves and outlawed altogether. He’s very emotional about it,” she said.

He wants people to be aware that it’s not a natural drug, it’s something that can kill you.

“We don’t condone what he did. He had a lot of stress recently. He bought the product under the impression that he was buying a legal alternative to marijuana, he just wanted to relax,” she said.

The Leader reported in December that many forms of synthetic cannabis are available legally across the New England North West, after a 15-year-old Tamworth boy suffered a reaction to the drug.

Sold under street names such as Black Widow, Spice or Kronic, the drugs have a cannabis-like effect when smoked, impairing judgement and creating a high.

“I just can’t believe this stuff is still for sale,” Mrs Traynor said.

“My husband went down to talk to the place that sold it to him. It’s there on the front counter with all the tobacco.

“It’s just too easy to buy.”

Paramedic Andrew Etherington said James was incredibly lucky to escape permanent brain injury or kidney failure.

“If he had have been on his own or using with other people, the outcome would have been completely different.”

Superintendent Tim Collins said the incident was a warning to others looking to use the legal product, saying it was impossible to know what was in the substances.

“These drugs can be cut with Ajax, Drano or bleach,” he said. 

“You just don’t know what’s in this stuff.”

Gunnedah police are investigating the sale of the products.

When contacted by The Leader, the business said the product was still for sale.

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