Synthetic 'zombie' drug contains 'dangerous chemical', police warn

  • 14/09/2017

Police have identified a synthetic cannabinoid sold in artificial drugs, which may have caused the death of at least 20 people across New Zealand.

The drug, also known as 'synthetic cannabis', contains the "dangerous chemical" AMB-FUBINACA, Detective Inspector Scott Beard said.

"It is a dangerous drug that we know is a synthetic compound usually manufactured overseas," he said in a statement.

"Those taking it are taking a huge risk because you do not know where it has come from, or the level of dosage."

The drug has been attributed to deaths across the world and gives victims as "zombie-like" demeanour once taken.

It was first developed by medical company Pfizer in 2009, but was abandoned and never tested on humans, according to the New York Times.

While it's commonly known as 'synthetic cannabis', due to its cannabinoid base, Insp Beard is among those denouncing the name.

"You may have noticed that we are not calling it synthetic cannabis. It is not cannabis," he said.

It's suspected to be involved in at least 20 deaths, according to Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall - which she says is a "tragedy" for those left behind.

"Using any illicit drug carries risks, and in the case of synthetic drugs, they are known to cause potentially fatal seizures," she said.

"I urge anyone considering using this drug not to do so, and for those who are, to reach out to services that might assist them."

Police issued a warning about the synthetic drug after a spate of deaths in July, which was followed by a number of raids across the country.