More than 70 deaths blamed on synthetic drugs in two years

More than 70 people are believed to have died from synthetic drugs in the past two years, New Zealand's Chief Coroner has revealed.

Judge Deborah Marshall's comments come following an inquiry into the death of Joseph Rakete, who was found on a footpath on Auckland's Queen Street in August 2017.

On Tuesday, Coroner Debra Bell released her findings into his death, which show it was due to a mixture of methamphetamine, alcohol, cannabis and AMB-FUBINACA - a synthetic cannabinoid.

Bell notes that AMB-FUBINACA has been the cause of a number of deaths around New Zealand. And Judge Marshall says 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.

"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."

Bell says she agrees with previous advice given following synthetic drug coronial inquests.

A harm reduction approach should be developed to provide easy access to treatment for those seeking assistance, and synthetic drug users and their families should be informed of the dangers and the need to get help immediately if someone collapses.