Pressure mounts for governments to toughen synthetic drug laws

14.06.2013 04:56

Federal and state governments are under
pressure to toughen laws against
synthetic drugs, but there are serious
doubts that the growing industry can be
kept in check.
Synthetic drugs are sold legally in many
tobacco and adult shops and provide an
instant high like the substances they are
designed to mimic.
A week ago Sydney teenager Henry Kwan
jumped to his death from the balcony of
his family's apartment in a suspected
synthetic drug-induced psychotic episode .
Stephen Kwan says his 17-year-old son
took what is believed to be synthetic LSD
to help him stay alert while he studied.
"He took it, vomited and then not too
long after lost his sense and does this silly
thing," Mr Kwan said.
"Suddenly he just jumped up, shouted
and then ran out to the balcony."
Mr Kwan says Henry wanted to jump and
family members failed when they tried to
stop him.
Henry's death has generated a swift
reaction from New South Wales
authorities which have slapped a 60-day
ban on 18 different drugs.
Adult shops and tobacconists have been
told to remove synthetic cannabis, LSD
and cocaine from their shelves.
Drug researchers doubt
ability to control growing
market
Fair Trading New South Wales's Trudy
Anderson says the danger of the drugs lie
in their unknown ingredients.
"These drugs are extremely dangerous,"
Ms Anderson said.
"We [often] don't know what's actually in
them and furthermore we don't know
what they're cut with. And they're often
cut with other substances."
But drug researchers doubt the ability of
authorities to control the growing market.
Multiplying overseas websites selling the
drugs are adding to the majority of sales
which occur locally through friends or
retailers.
In addition to the online marketplace,
authorities have to contend with differing
regulatory approaches at a state level.
Henry's death has generated varied
responses from state and federal
authorities, with NSW black-listing specific
synthetic drug brands and some states
banning the chemical formulas of the
drugs.
Others are waiting for Canberra to take
the issue to the Therapeutic Goods
Administration.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale says it is
critical to have a national approach on
the issue.
"We've got a huge problem with a system
of patchwork legislation so that people
don't know what's legal in one state,
what's illegal in another," Mr Di Natale
said.
'I thought I was having a
heart attack'
Tarryn Skerry wants to warn people after
her own horror experience on synthetic
marijuana, during which she thought she
was having a heart attack.
"Immediately after I inhaled a couple of
puffs of a communal joint, my heart
started to race," Ms Skerry said.
"I felt really odd and a really strong
sensation of numbness and tingling,
especially in my hands and feet.
"I pretty much thought I was having a
heart attack, to be honest, or at least I
was going to faint or die. That was the
immediate effect."
Ms Skerry says she wants stronger, more
coordinated action by governments
against the synthetic drugs which she
describes to be "absolutely everywhere".
"I just feel like if what I say can change
just one person's view about the legality
of it, or make just one person not
consume it, then my work here is done."
Mr Kwan says his family have the same
motivation - they want synthetic drugs
everywhere banned for good.
"I miss him very much," Mr Kwan said.
"I was supposed to come back to
celebrate his 18th birthday [at the] end of
this month, but [instead] I saw him at the
Coroner office, I touched his cold body.
"Without this ban I believe more families
will be in the same situation as me."