REHABILITATION centres in the Hunter Valley and Central Coast are reporting an increase in cases of synthetic drug addiction.
The Glen – a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in Rothbury and on the Central Coast- has experienced up to a 25 per cent increase in admissions to the clinics for synthetic drug addiction treatment in the past year.
Four people have been admitted to the Hunter clinic alone in recent weeks.
With synthetic drugs, including cannabis, becoming widely available and easily accessible across the state, The Glen’s coordinator Vince Coyte believes shop owners are selling the drug while fully aware of the consequences it can have.
“We started noticing it last year. We started having problems because we weren't testing for it,” Mr Cotye told Fairfax Regional Digital. “It became a serious problem for us.
“You have to have special tests for it as it doesn't have the (the active chemical in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol) THC in it, there’s an artificial ingredient which has the same effect.”
Mr Coyte said at the moment, the biggest indicator of a synthetic drug user was behaviour.
“In recent weeks we’ve had four people come in to our centre using synthetic drugs," he said. “There are two big problems, one is they have unknown contents, some of which can be very dangerous to the user.
“It’s not necessarily the drug that gives them the kick but other things they put in with them. There’s not control on them. The second thing is they’re legally available.
“People think just because it’s legally available, they’re harmless but that perception is completely wrong. Some of these synthetic drugs are worse than real drugs.
“I’m concerned about the fact that some people sell it and they really don’t care.
Mr Coyte likened the sale of synthetic drugs to selling baby formula with arsenic in it.
“This is the equivalent of the irresponsibility,” he said.
As the drugs are relatively new to consumers and rehabilitation centres, he said, workers still are learning about the effects.
“The thing we've found is the mental damage they do - it’s only a relatively new experience but there seems to be an increased loss of mental capacity and increased paranoia.
“There an increase in bad episodes and people being hospitalised, so while it is fairly new I can’t definitively say what the mental damage is. What I can say is this is a dangerous new experience.
“To be honest one has to criticise who would actually sell it even if it’s legal.”
Synthetic drug users, Mr Coyte said, generally appeared to range from teenagers to people in their early 30s.