GPs back move to report effects of legal highs

Parliament introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act last year. Photo / John Stone
Parliament introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act last year. Photo / John Stone

General practitioners are backing a Government initiative to encourage doctors to report any adverse health effects of patients who have used legal highs, in a bid to ban the products.

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne said he had asked health officials to keep an eye on emergency rooms around the country for reports of ill health relating to the products.

He was "delighted'' that ministry officials were following his request.

"They're doing exactly what I asked them to do.''

Products can be banned if they were reported to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring.

Mr Dunne said other legal high products had been banned after they were reported to the centre.

The only difficult aspect would be to link the exact product with the adverse health effect, he said.

"People's memories aren't always clear.''

General Practitioner Council chairwoman Kate Baddock said they supported the move.

"If we can socialise and spread [word of] the ill-effects of them then we may make progress towards having them blocked altogether.''

An adverse effect meant anything from headaches, rashes, nausea and vomiting, to seizures, coma and death.

"Everything that is caused as a consequence of taking that substance, which would not be considered beneficial,'' Dr Baddock said.

She agreed with Mr Dunne it was sometimes difficult to pinpoint the product that was causing the health problems, especially if the patient had taken a number of products.

"Many people who do indulge in legal highs are people who mix their drugs, and as a consequence there may be adverse combined affects that we don't even know about - let alone those that we can predictably associate with certain given ingredients.''

In the cases where it was not known what substance was causing harm, a toxicology screen could be performed, Dr Baddock said.

Earlier this month hundreds attended rallies around the country urging the Government to ban legal high products completely.

- APNZ

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