Department of Health

Health warning on synthetic drugs after hospital cases

Published by Department of Health & Human Services

Victorian health officials have issued an urgent warning on the use of synthetic drugs, after three men were hospitalised with severe reactions this week after using a product purchased in the south-east suburbs.

The acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Michael Ackland, said all three required treatment in hospital intensive care as a result of the drug.

Police obtained a supply of the product from a sex shop in Pakenham.

Dr Ackland said the product, packaged under the name of Marley was now being analysed, but it was likely to fall within Victorian Government legislation which addressed synthetic drugs.

“Quite apart from the concerns about whether products are being sold illegally, I am deeply concerned about the health impacts on users,” Dr Ackland said.

“All three men who presented initially at Dandenong Hospital had severe reactions, with two having had seizures and all having a range of serious health problems.

“While all three appear to have purchased the product from the same sex shop, I am very concerned that this product is more widespread across Melbourne and the rest of Victoria, and that other hospitals or health professionals may have seen patients with severe drug overdose reactions without realising the link.

“I strongly urge anyone who has Marley or any synthetic drug in their possession to refrain from using it, as it poses a significant risk to their health and wellbeing.

“I also call on outlets stocking Marley and any synthetic cannabis products to immediately stop selling them, as these drugs are dangerous to users.”

Dandenong Hospital officials reported:

  • A man in his 20s found agitated and confused by police on Wednesday evening after smoking Marley. He subsequently had a seizure and was admitted to Dandenong Hospital ICU.
  • Two men in their 40s who smoked a sachet of Marley together on Thursday. One was transferred to Monash Medical Centre ICU and the other to Box Hill ICU.

The Health Department is working with other authorities to check sex shops and other outlets to ensure the community is protected against illegal and dangerous substances.

The Victorian Government introduced legislation in Parliament in October to broaden the ban on synthetic drugs designed to copy the effects of illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy and LSD.

The legislation expands the definition of illicit drugs to include drug analogues, which are structurally similar to currently-banned drugs and can pose similarly serious health risks.

Authorities have been deeply concerned about the rapid emergence of new synthetic drugs and their continuing availability online and in retail outlets such as sex shops and tobacconists.

As well as including drug analogues in the definition of illegal drugs, more than 30 synthetic drugs and drug groups that are designed to mimic the effect of known illicit drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and cocaine are being banned under the new laws.

The Victorian Government first banned a range of synthetic cannabinoids in 2011 and subsequently expanded that ban significantly in 2012 to encompass a total of eight broad chemical groups of synthetic cannabinoids, as well as several other individual substances.

Synthetic cannabinoids are commonly sold under a range of names, including K2, Kronic, Ash Inferno, Black Widow and Slappa.

They are frequently marketed as ‘legal highs’, which contributes to the common misconception that they are less harmful.

There is limited knowledge about the health and dependency risks associated with their use, and unpredictable effects have been noted, including seizures, agitation, increased heart rate and psychosis.

Reviewed 01 November 2013


Contact details

Bram Alexander Department of Health Media Unit

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