A young woman experiencing the effects of quitting synthetic cannabis is warning others not to pick up the habit.
Michelle York*, 24, had been smoking K2 blue for the past two years. She began smoking in an attempt to avoid trouble with the police after she had been using cannabis. She says the substance was "10,000 times" more addictive than marijuana.
"I can't remember when I got hooked; I didn't really notice. I just smoked it all day, everyday."
Ms York said she smoked at least one bag a day and would begin to feel the withdrawals within hours of her last hit.
"It happens within a matter of hours. You feel the boredom and wonder 'what else am I going to do?'," she said.
After giving up several times, Ms York decided on Tuesday night that she would again try to quit.
"I'm sick of being paranoid and thinking the cops are out to get me. I threw it all in the toilet and now I just hope I can do it," she said. "You get the sweats, nausea and irritability and I feel ashamed of the fact I smoked; it makes me look like a druggie."
Without support from her housemates, Ms York said it would be easy to start smoking again.
"I just want to be normal and I don't think anyone can be if they are on that stuff."
On July 11, the Psychoactive Substances Bill restricting the sale of legal highs came into effect. The new law means no sales from dairies, grocery stores, petrol stations or anywhere alcohol is sold can be made.
No sale is to be made to those under the age of 18 and no advertising for these products may be done except at the point of sale.
Those who are found in breach of these rules may face up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $500,000.
"I went to the same places to buy my synthetic weed; I was a regular. No shop owner ever asked me for ID and they were more than happy to keep selling it to me everyday," explained Ms York. "Sometimes they would know what I was coming in for and have it out before I even got to the counter."
Addiction expert Lew Findley said it would take a while for the withdrawals to subside completely.
"It's three days before the physical withdrawals stop; then it takes three weeks to give up the habit, three months to convince your friends and it takes three years to convince yourself."
*Name has been changed.
PLACES TO GO FOR HELP:
MASH Trust, 602-606 Main Street, Palmerston North. Ph (06) 355-7200.
Narcotics Anonymous, 0800 NA TODAY (landline calls only).
Drug and Health Development project, 81 Grey Street, (06) 353-5063.
Piki Kotuku Te Awhi Hinengaro - Addiction Services, 140-148 Maxwells Line. Ph (06) 353-1884.
MidCentral Alcohol and Other Drug Service, (06) 350-9130.