A mother dealing with the fallout of having a son addicted to so-called legal highs says many young people are under the false belief that because the items were able to be sold legally, they must be safe.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said her and her 18-year-old son's life had been turned upside down by his use of a substance he and his friends thought had been tested by authorities.
"To say there was quite a bit of fallout when I discovered my son had used cannabis would be a bit of an understatement so he went and switched to these so called legal highs.
"I didn't even know what the stuff was but it wasn't long before I knew something was wrong, where as cannabis has quite a distinctive smell I knew he was up to something because he began to stink, it's hard to put a finger on just what of but his clothes even continued to smell after being washed."
Even more concerning was an admission by the woman's son that where he could take or leave cannabis, after having smoked K2 a couple of times he felt he was hooked on it.
"His behaviour has changed, he's a bright boy but since he's started on this stuff I've noticed he's lacking direction and really lethargic but one of the really interesting things is a grimy, oily residue coming out of his hands that leaves a black mark on benches or walls he touches.
"Looking back now I believe it was in January when I realised something wasn't right, what really sparked my attention was my son kept vomiting and would vomit in his sleep."
The woman said her son was generally a pretty healthy young man but since using K2 he has also contracted a cough which he hasn't been able to shake.
"It's like a really bad smoker's cough from a heavy smoker and quite gross.
"One of the really alarming things is that his friends are using it too and there's this misguided belief that because these substances, which come in small packets about the size of a condom wrapper and cost about $20, were able to be sold on store shelves then they must comply with some form of health and safety legislation and are ok to use."
The other attractive aspect for youngsters is that while cannabis use will be picked up in workplace drug testing there is a belief synthetic cannabinoids won't ,leaving them with the misguided belief that not only are they using a safe, legalised product they can apply for jobs with mandatory drug tests.
"I guess my key message here for parents is to learn from my experience, it's really important to keep talking to your kids and get to know their friends so they feel comfortable talking about what they're doing with you.
"Then, don't leave it till too late to seek help- you're not alone with the problem and the longer you leave it the worse you will feel."
The mother spoke out to support a multi-agency operation being launched in Hamilton East today, aimed at targeting those businesses selling synthetic cannabinoids.
Hamilton East community constable Briar Hallam said the objective of Operation Dairy was to target the sale of synthetic cannabinoids and to highlight the risks to the community posed by the products while promoting businesses refusing to sell them.
"A ban that came into effect last week on two substances found in K2 synthetic cannabis means anyone selling these products will be breaking the law and Police will be vigilant in enforcing the law to reduce the product's harmful effects on the community.
"Prior to the Temporary Class Drug Notice (TCDN) legislation coming into effect today which bans the substances BB-22 and 5F-AKB48, Police across Hamilton have been visiting businesses to educate them on what the ban means."