It should have been their happiest holidays.

Calum Jones was planning a festive proposal to his girlfriend Jess Waldon and spoke to his father at length about how much he loved her and how his life was about to change for the better.

But the next day Jones was dead.

The 22-year-old died at his family home in Henderson on September 1.

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He had been battling an addiction to synthetic drugs and had used shortly before his death.

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Synthetic cannabis - a fatal addiction. The short life and tragic death of Calum Jones

Calum Jones died after using synthetic drugs. This is one of the last photographs taken during a period when he was clean. Photo / Supplied
Calum Jones died after using synthetic drugs. This is one of the last photographs taken during a period when he was clean. Photo / Supplied

Months later Waldon is still reeling from losing the love of her life - she's lost without him, angry that he's gone and heartbroken when she thinks of what could have been.

"Calum was my whole world... he was my best friend, I still think that he is my best friend, but he's just not here," she said.

"Nobody else can compare to him, as a friend, as a partner…"

Jones is one of at least 25 people thought to have died from synthetic drugs in 2017.

The deaths have been referred to the Coroner.

No one has been charged in relation to Jones' death.

Figures supplied to the Herald by police show that from January 1 to September 30 last year 120 people had been charged with supplying a psychoactive substance.

During that time, 97 people had been charged with possession of a psychoactive substance.

"The last time I saw Calum was when I was leaving for work that day," Waldon said.

"He gave me a big bear hug, like he always used to do.

"We were planning for a big Father's Day weekend for him - we were going to spend the Sunday with his daughter, we had really cool things planned, we were planning to have a really good weekend."

After midday she got a call from Jones' panicked mother Lorraine, telling her to come to the house, quickly.

"Before I left work I knew, I said to my workmate - this is it, this is really it," Jess said.

"Some days I'm really really angry that he did that, because what could have been is now not."

Jones started smoking cannabis socially at 13 and by the time he was 15 he was a daily user.

At the end of 2013 Jones discovered synthetic drugs, which were then legal, and they became his drug of choice.

Loraine and Lewis Jones talk about losing their son Calum who died after taking a synthetic drug. Video / Nick Reed

His mother and father Lewis, at their wits end - got a court order to put him into detox and from there, he went into a rehab programme.

Two days before he died he was moved from fulltime rehab to a day programme, meaning he left the facility fulltime to live at home.

The night before he died he spent hours talking to his dad about his future - the first time in years Jones had voiced any hope or made any plans.

He told his father he was going to propose to Waldon at Christmas.

"I said to him that we could move in together once he got clean - that was a pretty big incentive," Waldon said.

"He was staying with me every weekend, so that was a taste for him and he really quite liked that.

"He always said 'I'm going to marry you', but I didn't really think that he was serious, he was a bit of a joker… But he went and told his dad so…"

Jess Waldon speaks about the death of her partner Calum Jones, a synthetics addict who died while trying to get clean. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Jess Waldon speaks about the death of her partner Calum Jones, a synthetics addict who died while trying to get clean. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Jones and Waldon were in a relationship for years as teenagers, then broke up but stayed close friends.

He had a daughter with another partner, and then got back together with Waldon at the start of last year.

"For at least the last two months he was back to Calum, he was doing really, really well, everything was normal again and he was happy," she said.

One of the things Jess treasures is a jar she presented Jones with when he was in rehab.

He would say to her "I hate being like this" and he was desperate to get clean.

So, Waldon filled a jar with pieces of paper - 150 white rectangles folded in the middle and each bearing a reason Jones should stay clean.

"That day that I took it to him he sat there and read every single note," said Jess, opening it and pulling out some of the messages.

"Remember, relapse does not destroy the progress you have made", one of the notes said.

Another said: "you are the root of someone else's happiness".

And another, one that was so important to Jones: "to help people in the future".

"When he read this he was like 'yep, that's me'... he was doing really well," Waldon said.

A decision has not been made on whether an inquest will be held into Jones' death.

While Waldon wanted some kind of accountability around his death, what she wanted more was for her message to get through.

"People using - it's not just you that it affects, it's everybody around you, your family, your friends, your partner," she said.

"And to the people that are selling? They're destroying and ending lives, but not just of the people that they are selling to.

"They are destroying a lot of people around that single person.

"I think if they understood and cared about that then surely they would not be selling it? Then people wouldn't be using it and we wouldn't be here."

Loraine and Lewis Jones talk about losing their son Calum who died after taking a synthetic drug. Video / Nick Reed
Calum's parents Lewis and Lorraine are struggling to come to terms with his death. Photo / Nick Reed
Calum's parents Lewis and Lorraine are struggling to come to terms with his death. Photo / Nick Reed

Jones' father Lewis also struggles with guilt - he's convinced he "dropped the ball" and could have done more to save his troubled son.

He was going to go into the rehab centre on the day Jones died and see if they would take him back as a fulltime patient.

He is angry that his son was doing well for the first time in years, that he was making plans and valuing his life - and that ended so cruelly.

"He wanted to be with Jess and I told him he had to get through this part and I would help him, I would be right behind him."

The bereft parents, who separated when Jones was a child, are still searching for answers about his death.

They hope an inquest will be held so that the circumstances of Jones' death - from leaving rehab and why that happened, to who supplied him with the fatal dose of drugs - can be revealed.

"That's 50 per cent of me and 50 per cent of Lorraine that's died… yet we are still here talking," Lewis Jones said.

"I wake up in the morning and feel like I want to throw up, that's what this feels like. Every day."

"I think what hurts the most is we were going down the track of Calum finally coming right.

"If this had happened six months ago, ok - but this time he was really doing well.

"You torture yourself, you really do… forever is a long time, you never expect as a parent to say goodbye, it should be the other way round."

What are synthetic drugs

Smokable products containing varieties of plant matter that have been infused with synthetic cannabinomimetic substances.

They act in a similar way to cannabinoids naturally found in cannabis such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Therefore these products were intended to be a legal alternative to cannabis, but are now banned.

Synthetic drugs act on the same brain cell receptors as natural marijuana, but are more likely to cause hallucinations and heart problems.

Synthetic drugs has also been linked to an increased risk of seizures.

Effects include, but are not limited to: decreased motor co-ordination, fast or irregular heartbeat, disassociation, dizziness, paranoia, psychosis.

Use of synthetic drugs in New Zealand has also been linked to renal failure and heart failure.

(Source: alcoholdrughelp.org.nz)

Where to get help

If you, or someone you know, is using synthetic cannabis, police urge you stop immediately and seek help if needed by contacting your local GP or by ringing the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797 or text 8681 7 days a week to speak to a trained counsellor.

If you or someone else is in immediate danger call 111.