A widely available "chemical cannabis" is being monitored by the Government after being banned in other countries.
The chemical compound JWH-018, sold as Spice or Dream, was recently banned in Austria and was this week outlawed in Germany after tests showed it affected the brain like THC, the natural psychoactive substance contained in cannabis, but was four times stronger.[IMGR="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=6861&stc=1&d=1231566986
Drug agencies in New Zealand are calling for it to be classified as a restricted substance, giving health authorities some control over its sale and promotion.
They say the Government now has the legislation to protect consumers from unspecified and untested chemical substances and should employ it faster.
Drug Foundation director Ross Bell said JWH-018 should be listed as a restricted substance.
New Misuse of Drugs Act regulations meant the Health Minister could place a substance on a restricted list, allowing authorities some control.
Controls included restrictions on things such as its sale at licensed premises, petrol stations and places where children could gather, as well as restricting sales to those aged over 18.
The product must also be clearly labelled as a restricted substance and include contact details for the National Poisons Centre, Bell said.
The ingredients listed on JWH-018 product packaging made it appear "all natural or made of things like pixie dust and fairy tears", he said.
However, its ingredients were unknown, posing a risk to those who took it.
"What is of concern to us is that the industry is behaving in a similar way now as they did with party pills.
"They are selling the product with a list of whatever ingredients they want and there are no controls in place or no health and safety information to protect people buying it."
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Luz Baguioro said it was monitoring JWH-018 products as well as hospital admission data to identify adverse effects.
The ministry commissioned studies on the self-reported adverse effects of non-regulated substances, including JWH-018, which will be finished this year.
Baguioro said the ministry had not seen the international forensic research confirming JWH-018 was the substance responsible for the cannabis-like psychoactive effects.
Internet reports from users of JWH-018 praise its effectiveness, with one saying "everyone who tries it reports near the exact same thing - a very cannabis-like high, more stoney, less psychedelic, munchies, dry mouth, red eye, strong about one to two hours then tapering off over six hours".
A Christchurch woman who tried JWH-018 said it made her slightly nauseous because of its strong scent and taste.
It provided a "buzz" which lasted about an hour and a tingling in the arms and legs.
Campaign Against Drugs on Roads (Candor) spokeswoman Rachael Ford said the chemical cannabis was a big risk because the general toxicity levels were not known.
Ford said Candor wanted a "suitably rapid response" from the Government to clamp down on sales.
She called on the Health Ministry to regulate JWH-018 at the earliest convenience until tests demonstrated it was completely safe.
By KIM THOMAS
Saturday, 10 January 2009