A former mine worker in the NSW Hunter said he smoked synthetic cannabis while at work last year and knew of others who used the product to escape mine drug tests.
‘‘I was using before, after and during work because it took hold of me,’’ said Rob, 24, who is receiving treatment in hospital this week because of his synthetic cannabis use.
‘‘Pretty much you just had to have it all the time or you’d get mental.
‘‘There were a lot of boys on my crew using it to beat the drug tests.’’
Rob was sacked from the mine late last year.
‘‘I used it to the point where I wasn’t aware if other people knew what I was doing, but I was paranoid as well.
‘‘I used a pipe when I was at work and covered up the smell by smoking a cigarette. The machines were that big that I could just walk behind them to smoke.’’
Rob used real – and illegal – cannabis from the marijuana plant until synthetic cannabis became available in Australian retail outlets in 2011.
Using synthetic cannabis at mine sites with zero tolerance of alcohol or drugs ‘‘definitely affected my work’’, he said.
He was fired because of the drug use, he said.
‘‘I’d say one of the bosses saw the way I was and how it was affecting my work, and I was out.’’
A Queensland mine job lasted for just one month.
His parents forced him to confront the impact the legally obtained synthetic cannabis was having on his life.
‘‘We had massive domestics at home over me trying to get money from them to buy the stuff after I lost my job,’’ Rob said.
‘‘My parents helped me by getting me into hospital for treatment. They were going to kick me out if I didn’t get off it.’’
Last year NSW Minerals Council chief executive Stephen Galilee made a submission to the NSW Parliament Legal Affairs Committee inquiry into synthetic drugs.
It called on the NSW government to enact legislation similar to the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s laws prohibiting eight broad classes of synthetic cannabinoids as well as any drugs that mimic cannabis.