Fewer Northlanders are showing up to the emergency department with psychoactive substance issues since a ban on the drugs came into force last year.

The Psychoactive Substances Act, which passed in 2013, regulated the availability of substances but allowed some products to stay on the market. The Psychoactive Substances Amendment Bill, passed in May last year, ended that interim product approval.

Northland District Health Board (DHB) chief executive Nick Chamberlain said three people presented in emergency departments for issues with the banned drugs in the year following the amendment.

There were no synthetic cannabis related admissions to Northland DHB's specialist detoxification service, Timatanga Hau, over that period.


Dr Chamberlain said 17 people presented in emergency departments with psychoactive substance issues the previous year and there were two admissions to Timatanga Hau, where synthetic cannabis withdrawal was a component of the patient's management.

Dr Chamberlain said Northland DHB's alcohol and drug service offered a range of pharmacological and psychological interventions to help people coming off all psychoactive substances, including synthetic cannabis.

Those included assessment of the problem as well as individual, group and family interventions, and specialist detoxification services and referral to residential treatment.

New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell said some people around the country had continued to use psychoactive substances since the ban. Synthetic cannabis was now on the black market along with new products.

"The added challenge is that people can also buy these substances online and have them posted from overseas," said Mr Bell.