Teen dead, two in hospital: synthetic marijuana warning
NEW South Wales police have warned against using synthetic marijuana after a teenage boy died and two other men fell gravely ill after smoking a bad batch of the substance.
Hunter Valley 17-year-old Dean Shield's body was found in a drain near homes in the Rutherford suburb of Maitland on Saturday night.
Police believe the happy-go-lucky teen had been smoking a drug branded as Kronic in the hours before his death.
Two men, both aged 22, were hospitalised on Sunday after taking what was believed to be the same drug in a nearby suburb.
Their symptoms were not believed to be life threatening.
Officers raided a property and seized an undisclosed quantity of the synthetic drug on Sunday.
"Police are warning anyone who is considering experimenting with illicit or synthetic drugs, no matter how they are branded or presented, to not do it," they warned in a statement.
"It's a gamble with your life that's just not worth taking."
Synthetic marijuana is a relatively new psychoactive substance produced with artificial chemicals to mimic the effects of marijuana.
Powdered chemicals are mixed with solvents and added to herbs, to be sold in colourful, branded packets.
The Australian Drug Foundation said manufacturers slightly modified the chemicals from batch to batch in order to "stay ahead of the law".
"So different packets can produce different effects even if the name and branding on the package looks the same," it continued.
Different brand names include Kronic, Northern Lights, Mojo, Lightning Gold, Lightning Red and Godfather.
It can also be marketed as aphrodisiac tea, herbal incense and potpourri.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey of 2013 found the median age of synthetic marijuana users was 27, while 70% were male, 78% were employed and 7% used the drug daily.
According to the data, 1.2% of Australians aged 14 and over had used the drug in the previous 12 months.