'It’s not trying to be cannabis anymore, it’s a nightmare'
JAMES* remembers the first time he used the drug that would unleash its own hell on his life for the next decade.
The then-24-year-old wharf worker was a daily marijuana user when workmates suggested he try synthetic cannabis to get past the regular drug tests.
At first James found the drug relaxing and similar to cannabis.
But he soon realised every time he used the synthetic drug the composition was slightly different meaning the effects would range very from mild to so severe he blacked out and ended up in hospital.
James started using natural cannabis as a teenager but never felt out of control.
He went to uni, completed a degree and has always held down a job.
"I used it for the euphoria and the relaxation to alleviate some mental health stress," James said.
As soon as he made the switch to synthetic cannabis James' need for the drug continued to grow.
Suddenly he was smoking three or four synthetic cannabis joints an hour.
He remembers the highs being short and sharp.
The desire for more was always there.
James said over the past 10 years synthetic cannabis had changed significantly as manufacturers used any chemical they could that wasn't banned by the government.
"Now it doesn't have any of the same effects as cannabis, people say why don't you switch back?" James said.
"It's not trying to be cannabis anymore, it's its own nightmare."
James claims synthetic cannabis can be easily purchased from retailers and tobacco stations and now contains opiates.
At the height of his drug use James thinks he was smoking about $400 of synthetic cannabis a week.
"I remember seeing people (who were on the drug) and they'd just be standing with a mate frozen and stiff," James said.
"That happened to me a few times, I'd be a statue and I couldn't move."
James said he knows friends who have had seizures after using the drug and sometimes became completely incoherent.
"The motor skills go, everything is impaired," James said.
James has woken up in a hospital after collapsing on the street and says he once work up in a cupboard and can't remember how or why he ended up there.
But increasingly James is worried about the long impacts the drug use could have on his health.
He claims to have long problems and says he often finds it difficult to breathe.
James has had periods off synthetic drugs and recently completed an alcohol and other drugs certificate.
At the time of the speaking to the Geelong Advertiser James had recently relapsed.
"I want people to be aware of the addictiveness of synthetic cannabis and how rapidly you can become hooked," he said.
"People think it's an easy way to get off cannabis, but it's not a replacement it's its own nightmare … beware."
*Not his real name
Originally published as Synthetic cannabis 'nightmare' revealed