'Zombie drug' linked to naked, violent attacks
POLICE have called for people to think twice about drug use after a spate of incidents where officers have been assaulted by people under the influence.
One recent incident involved an international visitor headbutting a police vehicle's windscreen on Christmas Day.
A Taser was used on the man, but this had no effect.
The Canadian, 23, was convicted last month at Sydney's Downing Centre of assaulting police, resisting police and destroying or damaging property.
Tweed Byron Police District Superintendent Wayne Starling said there had been an increasing number of drug-related incidents, many resulting in officers being injured.
"We had the windscreen of a police car damaged in Byron Bay,” he said.
"We've had police injured as a result of people using drugs.”
While those involved with some recent incidents were believed to have been under the influence of methamphetamine, it is understood others had taken designer drugs which have led to bizarre, violent behaviour, including users removing their clothes and performing self-harming, erratic actions.
Supt Starling said the lack of information about these drugs posed a huge risk to his officers, drug-users and the wider community.
He said situations where police had "no idea” what people had taken were highly dangerous.
"Some of these people on drugs can't be negotiated with,” he said.
"I would say there's been a couple of (incidents) where they've been very, very hard to restrain.”
While the drug ice has posed a challenge for police in recent years, it's understood a string of recent incidents have involved synthetic "designer” drugs, likely to be the "zombie drug” flakka.
In another incident, a 15-year-old boy allegedly violently resisted police after he was found naked and yelling in a Byron Bay street while another man was treated after throwing himself against windows and diving head-first off fences into the ground at Ocean Shores.
It's understood there were about a dozen instances of police being assaulted by people under the influence of drugs in the Tweed Byron Police District in 2017, along with almost 30 instances of people having a knife in a public place while under the influence of a drug.
Supt Starling said there had been incidents with a "consistent” set of symptoms which pointed to the "zombie drug”. This has involved users acting erratically, attacking police, police vehicles and vehicles belonging to members of the public.
He said the command had a "number of operations” under way but could not comment specifically on these.
Police would continue to focus on the supply of such drugs, but Supt Starling stressed the issue was not isolated to his command.
The Tweed, Byron and Lismore local government areas are all significantly above the state average of all drug offences.
Byron LGA had 2604 per 100,000 people in the 12 months to September 2017 (compared to 758 per 100,000 across NSW), according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
Zombie drug 'not common'
A NSW Health spokesman said they were not aware of any presentations to Northern NSW Local Health District emergency departments involving patients under the influence of "flakka”.
He said the use of the drug was "not widespread” in NSW and according to NSW Health emergency data, there were just eight related presentations in 2017.
The drug has in recent years attracted attention for online videos depicting bizarre behaviour.
Many users reportedly remove their clothes after experiencing a spike in body temperature.
"In 2017-18, NSW Health committed $208 million to alcohol and other drug services, which includes enhancement from the $75 million Drug Package it announced in 2016,” he said.
"The NSW Drug Package commits $75 million over four years to tackle drug misuse in communities by supporting more people and families to access treatment.”
Anyone who has concerns regarding their own or another person's drug use can call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service helpline on 1800 422 599.