Drug Foundation blasts 'callous indifference' of Government amid synthetics epidemic

There have been 40 to 45 deaths linked to synthetics in the past year, and the head of the Drug Foundation believes the epidemic is more lethal than the heroin problem of the 1970s.

Ross Bell says the response has been woeful because those affected are from low-income areas.

"There has been a callous indifference in the Government's response to this," Mr Bell told Newshub.

"Would we have seen a different response if this was children from wealthy families who were being poisoned by contaminated pinot noir?" he asked.

Winston Peters as acting Prime Minister said in July that Justice, Police, Health and Customs Ministers were "seriously urgently" working to find solutions.

Six weeks later, the Prime Minister said this afternoon: "Since that time I understand that the Minister of Health and Minister of Police have been looking in their respective areas."

Jacinda Ardern says it's an issue that is not easy - "if it was, I would have come out yesterday with a solution."

Users and ex-addicts from the Napier suburb of Maraenui told Newshub they got hooked when it was sold in shops, and stay with it because it's cheap.

"To be honest, yous have taken too long - now it's just something you rely on. It's been too long now," one anonymous user told Newshub.

Whatever It Takes support worker Chris Jenkins is desperate for more resources. He says someone he was trying to help recently died from an overdose

"The copper that attended the death said he found this guy with his fist clenched and still gripping on to that bag of synthetics," Mr Jenkins said.

Mr Bell says there are three urgent actions that can be taken right now:

- Offer first aid training in low-income areas so people can revive addicts

- Get paramedics and police to refer people to treatment services

- Open drop in centres in the heart of vulnerable communities 

When Newshub visited Maraenui, many users and ex-addicts spoke openly about their struggles and their need for support, a job or better housing - or even just a friend.

Those at the marae, church and support services are trying their best, but need more resources. They're open about what they need - they just want those in power to listen.