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Deadly party drug hits New Zealand

Published: 9:53AM Thursday March 18, 2010 Source: NZPA

Quantities of a party drug linked to the death of two teenagers in Britain have been intercepted by New Zealand Customs officials, with police fearing a strong version of mephedrone is in use here as a substitute for ecstasy.

British police say mephedrone contributed to the deaths of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, who died on Monday, according to The Times in London.

Mephedrone is rapidly gaining popularity in British schools and is now making inroads on the New Zealand party scene.

It is legal in the UK but is a banned Class C drug in New Zealand.

Customs officials have intercepted at least 15 packets of the drug - 13 of them from Britain - in the past four months.

The powdered form of the drug ostensibly sold as a plant fertiliser in Britain is being illegally imported, National Drugs Intelligence Bureau co-ordinator Detective Inspector Stuart Mills has told NZPA.

The maximum penalty for its possession was three months jail and/or a $500 fine, with up to eight years in prison for importing or supplying.

"Concerns have been raised about the strength of mephedrone available in New Zealand and it is believed that some drug users take mephedrone as a substitute for ecstacy (MDMA)," he says.

"There is also a risk that tablets which people believe to be MDMA may in fact contain mephedrone."

Mephedrone is banned in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Israel and Sweden.

Mills says police and the National Drugs Intelligence Bureau are closely monitoring its supply and use in New Zealand.

Potential side effects of the drug are reported to include fits, blood circulation problems, vomiting, nausea, nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, rashes and paranoia.