If synthetics were killing rich kids, Govt would take action - Drug Foundation

Around 20 deaths have been linked to synthetic drugs in New Zealand this year, and the executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation is fired up about the lack of Government response to it.

Speaking to The AM Show Friday morning, Ross Bell told host Duncan Garner the problem was "unprecedented".

"I'm quite upset about this, Duncan," he began. "We have never seen this before. We have not had 10 or 20 drug-related deaths in this country in a short period of time like this."

Mr Bell has condemned the political inaction surrounding synthetic drug use, adding that - had the situation been slightly different - there would've been a stronger Government response.  

"I don't care if they're busy in an election year," he said. "These are 20 deaths - what's going on here? If this was something else, if this was 20 rich, white kids from Remuera dying, there would've been a national response to this."

On Thursday, police confirmed they had found an extremely dangerous chemical found in the drugs they seized and tested.

Mr Bell explained that these chemicals are coming into the country as powders, which are then dissolved in a solvent and sprayed on plant material.

"Those powders change very frequently so this drug that the police announced yesterday, AMB-Fubinaca, has only been on the black market for a year. Previously there were other drugs that weren't killing people, so when it comes to so-called user responsibility - people weren't dying a year ago."

Mr Bell believes there has been a "callous indifference" to the problem.

Prime Minister Bill English and Deputy leader Paula Bennett discussed the issue at a press conference earlier this year, when the death toll for synthetic drug-related cases was at ten.

"Bill English saying it's personal responsibility or the police can fix this up, Paula Bennett saying we're going to give people longer prison sentences - where is the health support." he said, adding that more resources need to be contributed towards health as law enforcement can't fix the problem alone.

"You talked before about the failed war on drugs - we are living with the consequences of that."

On the AM Show on Friday, Ms Bennett said the Government is putting $40 million more into rehabilitation.

"We are upping the prosecution for those that are manufacturing this stuff. We are taking it incredibly seriously," she said.