The emergence of an illegal synthetic drug known as 'N-Bomb' or 'synthetic LSD' has seen five people treated in Christchurch Hospital's emergency department this week and left another in critical condition in ICU.
Canterbury Police and Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) are concerned at the emergence of 25B-NBOMe, described as a powerful synthetic hallucinogen by the hospital's emergency medicine specialist, Dr Paul Gee.
"It is related to amphetamines so can cause toxicity associated with both classes of drug.
"Hallucinations , confusion and agitation are common symptoms, sometimes leading to uncontrollable violent behaviour."
NBOMe is sold as a white powder or in capsules. There have been deaths associated with NBOMe in Australia and in Asia.
"Recreational doses are measured in tiny microgram quantities (less than the size of a match-head) so it is very easy to use more than intended," Dr Gee said.
Detective Senior Sergeant Jason Stewart said the last time a cluster of people had required treatment after using synthetic drugs in Christchurch was around six months ago.
"The real concern is that while five people have been treated in A&E in the last week, one person has been in ICU since their admission on Wednesday."
Police are working closely with customs and other agencies nationwide to target users and distributors of these substances as the effects of these drugs can be unpredictable and highly dangerous.
"In the case of synthetics users have very little knowledge of what they are actually taking and the public to be aware that there is a very real risk of serious harm or fatalities when people abuse any form of drug," Mr Stewart said.
Canterbury Police and Canterbury DHB advise drug users and the public to avoid any drug that is sold as an NBOMe or LSD-type drug and seek medical help for anyone suffering from adverse reactions.
If you see anything suspicious in your community contact Police straight away or call 111. Information can also be provided anonymously by calling Crimestoppers on 0800
If you, your friend or family member wants assistance with drug addiction contact the Canterbury Police Organised Crime Unit or the Drug and Alcohol Help Line by calling 0800 787 797, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website www.adictionshelp.org.nz