Sunday, 9 June 2013

!The REAL Danger of LEGAL DRUGS! 

Tragic death of model student Henry Kwan reveals the new scourge of legal synthetic drugs.
HENRY Kwan, 17, was a model student, dux of his class, when he took a drug that led to a psychotic breakdown and caused him to jump to his death off a balcony at his family's suburban Sydney home.

The synthetic drug he took on Wednesday afternoon was perfectly legal, and drugs just like it - forms of LSD, cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, marketed with names such as Kronic and Northern Lights - are available at your local tobacconist, at sex shops and even sports stores.

Henry's father Stephen faced the media last week, trying to get across the message that these drugs should not be legal.

"I just want that all parents should be aware of this. Because it can be available everywhere easily," he said.

His son was a "very good boy" who never would have taken an illegal drug. He took the tab because he thought it would help him stay awake to study

Instead it sent his brain haywire. He stripped off and told his mother he could fly as she struggled to hold him back from the balcony's edge.

It's a horror no parent should endure. Yet those drugs are still openly on sale.

How many more people have to die or lose their minds?

The NSW government already has the report of a 15-month parliamentary inquiry into synthetic drugs, tabled two weeks ago.

Chaired by Castle Hill MP Dominic Perrottet, it made 13 recommendations, including giving the Minister for Fair Trading power to issue on-the-spot fines.

But it still requires police to establish a substance is illegal, against the challenge of drug manufacturers who tweak their formulas to stay ahead of the law.

It's a complex task for lawmakers but Queensland has found the will for a tough response, banning all substances "intended" to have the same effect as a dangerous drug. No grey area.

Meanwhile, the human carnage piles up. On the NSW north coast, where police say synthetic drug use is rife, emergency departments are facing unprecedented violence and drug-induced psychosis.

Normal people are presenting with "out-of-control behaviours and manic violence similar to the comic book monster The Hulk" a nurse told The Port News. This is the illegal drug problem on steroids, and a glimpse into a future of legal drugs.

Last year, "Gabrielle", 22, and her partner decided to try synthetic cannabis "Kronic" they bought at a Newcastle tobacconist.

It was $10 more expensive than real cannabis, but they used it because it was legal.

"You think, I'm not doing anything wrong, it must be OK. It's legal and easy to get and you didn't have to associate with all the grubs you have to associate with to get (real marijuana). And it didn't show up on the drug tests at work."

She smoked Kronic for seven months, sharing 15-20 "cones" per day with her partner. One day he was smoking a cone when he "dropped to the ground and started having a fit".

The last straw was when her 13-year-old stepson found their stash and smoked one cone. They found him "stumbling up the road with no shirt on and blood coming out of his stomach. Voices in his head were telling him to kill himself so he stabbed himself with a cheese knife with two prongs on the end."

The boy spent three weeks in a psychiatric unit but recovered.

Gabrielle stopped smoking Kronic but then the panic attacks began. "Horrible ones. I ended up in hospital twice. Like I get chest pains and pins and needles in my arms and feel like I can't breathe properly and when I get up to walk I get really light headed like I'm going to pass out."

She is now on anti-depressants.

The Perrottet inquiry heard evidence that synthetic cannabis has a more profound effect on the brain than cannabis because "some of the compounds are more effective in binding to receptor sites".

While research into use is sketchy, the committee found mining companies are particularly concerned about the problem, with one test in Western Australia finding rates of use among employees as high as 30 per cent. The Perrottet inquiry recommended against self-regulation and licensing of the $600 million synthetic drugs industry.

But in doing so it was bucking against a mood for drug liberalisation that has infected much of the political class, and even police.

For the past seven years there has been a concerted attack on the successful Howard-era Tough on Drugs strategy, which was launched in 1997, and brought drug use down for the first time in three decades.

The result is that drug use is increasing, and more children are experimenting in a laissez faire atmosphere.

The figures tell the story.

A report last week by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics shows ecstasy use and possession soared by 77.5 per cent and cocaine by 43.5 per cent. While Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione claimed it was due to proactive policing, the evidence indicates otherwise. It doesn't matter which study you look at, the upward trend on drug use is unmistakable.

The Australian Secondary School Students Alcohol and Drug Survey shows teenage drug use plummeted between 1996 and 2005 before rising again from 2008 to 2011.

The proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds who used an illicit drug, mainly cannabis, in the previous month fell from 16 per cent in 1996 to 5.2 per cent in 2008. But then the trend reversed itself, rising to 5.5 per cent in 2011. For those aged 16-17, drug use in the previous month fell from 12.8 per cent to 12.4 per cent between 2005 and 2008 and then swung back up to 14.2 per cent in 2011.

The latest National Drug Strategy household survey found the number of people over 14 who used drugs in the previous year rose by 20 per cent between 2007 and 2010.

A similar story is found in the Australian Crime Commissions Illicit Drug Data report, 2010-11. A decline in cannabis use from 18 per cent in 1998 to about 9 per cent in 2007 surged to 11 per cent in 2010.

We have no hope of tackling the new scourge of synthetic drugs if we keep going soft on regular drugs.

PICTURE -- Stephen Kwan with a picture of his son Henry who died after taking a synthetic drug and falling from a third floor balcony at his home in Killara. Picture:  Cameron Richardson Source: The Daily Telegraph