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Synthetic cannabinoid

New Zealand

AMB Fubinaca ESR
How to identify the drug
  • Described as a white powder
  • Usually sprayed onto plant material and smoked
  • Can also be vaped or consumed orally

The synthetic cannabinoid AMB-FUBINACA has been detected in a number of locations across New Zealand. This is particularly concerning as AMB-FUBINACA has been one of the most deadly illicit substances in NZ in recent years, having been responsible for the majority of fatalities in 2017-2019.

AMB-FUBINACA is scheduled as a Class ‘A’ Controlled Substance in NZ under an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 which came into force on 13 August 2019.

If you have heard of any reports of this drug, please let us know through the Report unusual effects page, the alert ID is N20/0010. All submissions are anonymous.

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How to recognise symptoms of the drug

Synthetic cannabinoids can have harmful and unpredictable effects. Immediate effects of AMB-FUBINACA may include:

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea, or vomiting
  • Tremors, seizures
  • Sedation, drowsiness
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Confusion, loss of touch with reality
  • Paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks
  • Loss of consciousness

According to ESR, AMB-FUBINACA is reported to have an effect that is 75 times stronger than THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis.

THC is known to act mainly on a particular part of the brain, called the CB1 receptor. When THC interacts with this receptor it causes a reaction which may include a change of mood, behaviour, perception and consciousness.

Synthetic cannabinoids are designed to react with the same part of the brain in an attempt to create an effect like that of THC. However, while synthetic cannabinoids might have a similar effect to cannabis, it can give completely different psychoactive highs, or side effects.

So, instead of experiencing the effects someone might expect from cannabis, synthetic cannabis could make someone feel angry and aggressive. It can also cause anxiety, or worsen existing mental health problems.

Synthetic cannabinoids are also addictive, with a re-dosing compulsion, and people have described experiencing long withdrawal periods.

How to reduce harm from the drug

No drug use is always the safest drug use. AMB-FUBINACA has the potential for serious harm, as it can lead to rapid overdoses at low concentrations.

There’s a risk that dosing can be different, even within the same batch, as it’s easy for manufacturers to apply a dangerous dose when preparing leaf mixture, further increasing the likelihood of overdoses, and possibly death.

There is also a risk that manufacturers may not know which type of synthetic cannabinoid they are applying to plant material, leading to unpredictable and harmful results. A packet may also include more than one synthetic cannabinoid or other drug types.

Synthetic cannabinoids haven’t been tested in the way medicinal drugs are tested, and they haven’t been proven to be safe. For further harm reduction information, please see the Drug Foundation’s synthetic cannabinoids page.

People can often be very out of it after using synthetic cannabinoids. They may collapse or “drop”, foam at the mouth or experience temporary paralysis. Place them in a stable side position if possible and continuously monitor breathing.

Always call an ambulance if someone:

  • is unconscious;
  • stops breathing;
  • has a seizure;
  • is extremely agitated for longer than 15 minutes;
  • has chest pain or breathing difficulties for longer than 5 minutes.

If you have heard of any reports of this drug, please let us know through the Report unusual effects page, the alert ID is N20/0010. All submissions are anonymous.

Are you concerned about your own drinking or drug taking? Reach out to the Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797, or text 8681. You'll be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can provide you with helpful information, insight and support. They’re available 24/7, all calls are free and confidential.

You can also chat to the Alcohol Drug Helpline team online through the website, or:

  • Call the Māori Line on 0800 787 798 for advice and referral to kaupapa Māori services.
  • Call the Pasifika Line on 0800 787 799 for advice and referral to services developed for Pacific people.
  • Call the Youth Line on 0800 787 984 for advice and referral to services for young people.