Regions, low-income areas desperate for synthetics support - Drug Foundation

The Drug Foundation says there is little to no support for synthetic cannabis addicts in the regions and low-income communities - the areas most affected by the epidemic.

The recent death of a 55-year-old man in the Napier suburb of Maraenui has been linked to a bad batch, prompting a warning from police.

Between 40 and 45 deaths have been linked to the drug over the past year, and people in that community say they need more help for addicts.

Former addict-turned-supporter Chris Jenkins, who works for rehabilitation service Whatever It Takes, says he has a huge case load and waiting times for rehab are up to six months.

He says while there's some support in the Hawke's Bay, accessibility can be a hurdle for some and a service needs to be offered to people on the group in Maraenui.

He ran a drop-in support centre in Maraenui up until late last year, when it was was forced to close because the building became unavailable.

Mr Jenkins says it was a great success because he could direct people to the right services to get them help.

But while Mr Jenkins says there's not enough support, the chief medical officer for the Hawke's Bay DHB says they offer plenty of support - including support groups and rehab.

"It's one thing to help someone through a rehab programme, but then to keep them off it when you're returning them to the same community and the same lifestyle and the same environment - that's where we've got to do it differently," said John Gommans.

The DHB says wait times for rehab are just four to six weeks. It also runs a free bus service from Maraenui and other suburbs to support services in Napier, and is considering setting up an outreach addictions service in Maraenui.

But Drug Foundation chief executive Ross Bell says there's "little to no support" for the regions and low-income areas where synthetics is most prevalent.

Some former addicts Newshub spoke to said there was help available, but people had to make a choice to seek it out, while some current users said that wasn't the case.

One man said he got off the drug when he went to prison, and two others said help to find suitable housing would help.

Comment has been sought from the Government and the Ministry of Health.