Drug ban impacts

Sharon Kemp | Bendigo Weekly | 10-Nov-2017

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THE fallout from the criminalisation of synthetic drugs will be known within a month when stockpiles bought before the legal changes have run out.

Bendigo Community Health Services workers are reminding users that support is available if they are distressed about changes to the availability of synthetic drugs which they say have been widely available and used in the city.

Bart McGill, senior worker harm reduction, said he had experience with people who had withdrawn from synthetic drugs.

“There can be complexities, but we can manage them,” he said.

“If you do need support, we have a range of services, if you have been using synthetic cannabis or other drugs for an extended period of time and you are finally at a point of time when you need to talk, then make contact with us.”

It has been more than a week since new laws banning the sale of synthetic drugs came into effect and Mr McGill said there were anecdotal reports of distress among users.

“Synthetic cannabis has been one of the more common substances retailed in the region,” he said.

“It is so variable, one batch can be significantly stronger than the next and that has been a message to people who use these drugs.

“At the moment, we are seeing the consequences of the law change, there are a lot of people in significant distress because they cannot as easily access this product as before.”

Synthetic drugs, those which are designed to mimic the effects of illicit drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy, were previously available over the counter.

But as of last Tuesday, dealers will face two years in jail or more than $38,000 in fines if caught.

The state-wide ban means it is illegal to produce, sell or promote any substances that have a psychoactive effect, regardless of their chemical make up. 

The new laws also give police the power to search and seize any psychoactive drugs, in the same way police can search for any illicit drug.

Mr McGill said users may have previously had a degree of comfort from having legal access to the drugs.

“One of the misconceptions has been that because these products have been sold via a shop, there was some quality control, or product control or even a safety associated with it, and nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.

“We do know that people who use drugs, and those who have problematic levels of use, they tend to be poly drug users.

“It would follow logic that it would increase to another drug.”

Mr McGill said when changes in legislation in substance abuse take affect, stockpiling often happens ahead of these becoming law, so it is quite likely people will be sitting on a stash for a couple of weeks.

“When that starts to diminish, if something else doesn’t take its place, as in another vendor, then we would imagine we will get a  shift, in demand for services,” he said.

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