6 Aug 2022

A 'very unpleasant time' - new synthetic drug in NZ

11:01 am on 6 August 2022

A new synthetic drug has been found for the first time in New Zealand with feedback that it caused extreme anxiety for a user.

New synthetic drug identified by Know Your Stuff

The drug recently identified by Know Your Stuff NZ. Photo: Supplied / Know Your Stuff

The MDMB-5Br-INACA, or mystery white powder, is a new synthetic cannabinoid that is not related to cannabis, but it does hit the same receptors in the brain, producing similar effects to THC - such as euphoria and a sense of relaxation.

The drug might hit those receptors much harder than cannabis, causing negative effects.

The new cannabinoid was identified by the non-profit organisation Know Your Stuff NZ.

The organisation tests substances brought in voluntarily by consumers for analysis of their safety.

Managing director Andy Allison said because the substance was new, there was no information about how potent or risky it was.

"It's the first time it's been seen in Aotearoa and it's also the first time we are aware that anybody has taken it.

"Very little is known about it. What we do know is the one person we are aware of that has taken it thinking it was MDMA had a very unpleasant time, very quick onset, extreme anxiety and just feeling very unwell."

War against drugs

The latest Illicit Drug Harm Index has estimated that in 2019, almost 60,000 kilos of illicit drugs were consumed by New Zealanders, most of it being cannabis.

Allison said prohibition never worked.

"It's very obvious that prohibition doesn't work. We've been doing it for 50 years and they've only ever increased punishment and brought more drugs under prohibition.

"And it hasn't reduced harm, it hasn't reduced use. We have more people using drugs than ever before and more people getting harmed by drugs than ever before."

Know Your Stuff NZ says criminalising substances doesn't stop the illicit market.

"Underground chemists simply make different drugs. Those new drugs will be designed solely to get around laws and restrictions so people can manufacture and sell them legally, rather than designed to be lower risk or more enjoyable."

"Cannabis gets banned? Chemists make synthetic cannabinoids. Cannabinoids get banned? Chemists make different, more potent synthetic cannabinoids. And so, it goes on," the organisation said in on of its online articles.

Through a statement, the Ministry of Health said Medsafe has been made aware through communications with other agencies of the presence of the substance.

It says it's currently working with other sector agencies to quickly understand more about it.

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