New Zealand health authorities have warned the public that there is a “particularly dangerous batch” of synthetic cannabis on the loose after the substance was linked to the death of one person and the hospitalisation of another.
Synthetic cannabis (sometimes called ‘synnies’) is a non-organic imitation of cannabis. Unlike regular cannabis, it’s extremely harmful and potentially deadly. Synthetic cannabis is often made with a cocktail of toxic substances, meaning it resembles meth more than cannabis.
Drug Information and Alerts Aotearoa New Zealand (DIANZ) released a ‘High Alert‘ warning on Monday (the 5th of July), warning people that synthetic cannabis has been found in the Taranaki area.
This notification is to advise of a particularly dangerous batch of synthetic cannabinoids (also known as synthetics, synnies) likely linked to at least one death and another serious hospitalisation in the Taranaki region.
Police believe that the synthetic cannabis that caused the harm is ’45-MDMB-BICA’, which has been found in the bodies of people injured by synthetic cannabis. This includes a 39-year-old man and a 16-year-old woman in 2018 and two men in 2017.
According to the alert, the most recent form of synthetic cannabis looks like a white, off-white or brown-yellow powder. Sometimes, people spray the power onto dried cannabis and smoke it. While synthetic cannabis can vary, it commonly has a chemical smell and makes cannabis look sticky.
When people consume 45-MDMB-BICA, they have been known to collapse, foam at the mouth or experience temporary paralysis. Synthetic cannabis also causes fast heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, paranoia, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, seizures, death and other symptoms.
The alert warns people that if they have heard any reports of synthetic cannabis in the Taranaki area, they should file an anonymous report through High Alert’s ‘Report Unusual Effects‘ page using the alert ID N21/0019.
However, the Manawatu, Taranaki, Whanganui-Ruapehu Police has also warned on its Facebook page that it’s likely 45-MDMB-BICA is “present in other regions of New Zealand.”
Synthetic cannabis isn’t just a problem in New Zealand. Research from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that the deaths of 55 Australians have been linked to synthetic cannabis between 2000 and 2017. An estimated 2.8% of Australians aged 14+ have used synthetic cannabis before.