It has been revealed that between 40 and 45 people have likely died from synthetic drugs since last June, according the Coroner’s office.
“This is an absolutely appalling and unbelievable situation,” said Max Abbott, professor of psychology and public health at Auckland University of Technology.
The deaths illustrate a massive spike compared to previous years, causing a resurgence of pressure on the Government to address the issue.
Prof Abbott, who’s an advocate for decriminalising all drugs, believes the Government should take immediate steps in addressing the spike in deaths.
Should the Government decriminalise cannabis, fewer people would be driven to seek out synthetic substances, argues Prof Abbott.
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“People know that it’s dangerous but they are still using it at the moment, partly because it’s difficult to get cannabis at the moment.”
Prof Abbott says decriminalisation will also help those in chronic pain who are still unable to access medicinal cannabis, which he predicts has a long way to go before becoming legal.
“The law is damaging people,” he told RadioLIVE.
But while the law should loosen in some areas, Prof Abbott argues that people caught distributing dangerous synthetic drugs should be charged with manslaughter. “We need to toughen up, actually in some areas,” he said.
Prof Abbott conducts research on mental health and addictions, and frequently advocates for policies that he believes will enhance health outcomes. He is also a board member of Waitemata District Health Board.
Listen to full interview with Max Abbott above.
The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.