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HealthInfo Canterbury

Synthetic drug addiction or abuse

Synthetic drugs are made in a laboratory. They're designed to give similar effects to other chemicals that give highs.

Synthetic cannabinoids are made to be like cannabis and give similar effects.

Synthetic stimulants are similar to amphetamines. They try to give effects similar to drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine.

The effect that these drugs give depends on the particular batch. It also depends on what drug they're based on, the amount of the drug taken and how pure the drug is. The drugs can come in different forms, including tablets or capsules, powder, crystal and liquid. They have many different brand names, or street names.


Synthetic drugs can be quite toxic as you can't know what's gone into the drug or how pure it is. The drug's effects can also be very unpredictable and quite dangerous.

If you think you or someone else is having a bad reaction to synthetic drugs, call an ambulance on 111.

Until recently it was possible to buy synthetic drugs (or legal highs) in shops, but in 2014 they became illegal. This was because it became clear how harmful they were. Many people were becoming very sick, and even dying, after using these drugs.

Synthetic drugs are very addictive. They're currently causing a lot of problems for users in New Zealand.

Like other addictive drugs, there are effective treatments for people who use synthetic drugs and would like to withdraw and become drug free.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created November 2018.


Page reference: 520832

Review key: HIADG-47857