Synthetic cannabis may have claimed its first life in Rotorua.
A 44-year-old man was found dead at a property in Utuhina, Rotorua, on Saturday morning, Rotorua Area Commander, Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said.
“Police believe the male may have been a user of synthetic cannabis, however police enquiries are ongoing and the cause of death is yet to be established.
“A post-mortem is being carried out today and the matter has been referred to the Coroner, who will ultimately determine the cause of death.”
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The man’s death comes in the wake of a single 24-hour period that saw Rotorua St John Ambulance staff treat 15 people suffering from the effects of what is believed to be a contaminated batch of the drug.
St John ambulance officers attended 11 incidents, involving 15 people, in the Rotorua area between 1.40pm Thursday and 10.30am on Friday, with hospital emergency staff warning of a “strong and potentially contaminated” product causing vomiting and violent behaviour doing the rounds on the local market.
It also follows a string of deaths in Auckland related to the drug.
Pewhairangi, said enquiries were ongoing relating to Friday’s events.
He also issued a warning.
“These substances are extremely dangerous and the health-related issues can be severe. In Auckland there are a number of deaths before the Coroner which are linked to the use of synthetic cannabis,” he said.
Pewhairangi said police were aware synthetic cannabis is on the black market in the Rotorua region.
“We have been actively targeting suppliers and manufacturers of these products and people are currently before the court on various charges, including possession for supply and selling psychoactive substances,” he said.
“As well as being dangerous to people’s health, we know that the use of these products is a driver of crime with users committing crimes to fund their habits, which causes further harm to the community. “
Pewhairangi also called for community help in the battle against synthetic cannabis.
“If you know of someone who is using these products, or selling them, tell us what you know.
“This way, we can investigate and work to break the supply chain in an effort to reduce the harm these products cause to the community.
“We don’t want these substances in our community and we will take action on any information we receive.”
Lakes DHB clinical director of emergency and medical management Dr Peter Freeman also warned of the dangers of synthetic drugs.
“There is no doubt that there is a very strong and potentially contaminated ‘product’ now being distributed locally that causes immediate vomiting, loss of consciousness and violent behaviour,” he said.
“I strongly advise people to keep away from synthetic cannabis, it is potentially very much more dangerous than marijuana.”
Rotorua MP Todd McClay has also weighed in, calling on parents to speak to their children about the dangers of synthetic drugs.
“These are very dangerous, untested drugs that can and do harm. I ask parents to talk to their children and make sure family members and friends are aware that synthetic drugs can be deadly.”