Chilling map shows which synthetic drugs are killing Kiwis around New Zealand

A chilling new map shows which synthetic drugs are killing Kiwis around New Zealand - and how many lives they've taken.

The two-year ESR project looked at the different psychoactive substances available around the country and found "clear regional differences" in the substances being used.

"Over the two years of the project we detected synthetic cannabinoids in 90 deaths referred to the coroner that may be linked to the use of these drugs," says ESR's forensic toxicology manager Dr Mary Jane McCarthy.

"Of those cases over 80 percent were linked to AMB-FUBINACA, recently reclassified with Class A drug status."

AMB-FUBINACA was detected in the bulk of the 68 drug-related fatalities referred to the coroner in the north of New Zealand.

The Central Region saw 14 deaths linked to synthetic cannabinoids in this time period, which were more evenly split between AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB.

And the Southern Region saw eight cases linked to AMB-FUBINACA, 5F-ADB and 5F-MDMB-PICA .

The map showing the drug-related fatalities.
The map showing the drug-related fatalities. Photo credit: ESR

New Zealand's Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, has confirmed the death toll attributable to synthetic drugs toxicity could be as high as 75 people since June 1, 2017.

"There are 24 cases where the cause of death has been confirmed as synthetic cannabis toxicity and around 50 cases which provisionally appear to be attributable to synthetic cannabis toxicity; a total of 70-75 deaths since June 1, 2017," she said in a statement on Tuesday.

"There are also a number of deaths where, while synthetic cannabis contributed to the death, synthetic cannabis toxicity was not the ultimate cause of death."

And an emergency department doctor says New Zealand has had some of the most dangerous synthetic drugs in the world over the past few years.

"What we had on the streets, especially in 2017 and 2018, were some of the strongest synthetic cannabis seen worldwide," says Dr Paul Quigley from the Wellington Hospital.

"The doses out there were enormous - one puff could kill."

Police warn synthetic drugs are still a problem around New Zealand, and are asking for help those manufacturing synthetics.

"It's the people out in the community, who know who's manufacturing and supplying the drugs, that we need to contact us," Detective Inspector Scott Beard told Newshub.

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