Risk of death from synthetic drug use can be significantly reduced if the system gets it right, the head of a Maori public health provider says.

As of August 1 this year, 10 people are believed to have died as a result of using illegal synthetic drugs within the space of one month.

And without a law reform these "tragic" numbers may become worse, Hapai Te Hauora Tapui chief executive Lance Norman said.

Norman said the scale of the problem suggested it was time to regulate synthetic drugs.

"Anything not regulated, by default is going to have issues because there are no rules or regulations on what a product can include."

The currently illegal drug contained "synthesised chemicals" and other unknown ingredients, he said.

Once regulated, the substances could be sold under guidelines on who could buy and sell the product and what would be included in it, he said.

But Norman said the first step was to get the terminology right.

The "concoction" currently being sold illegally was not cannabis, he said.  

"It is unhelpful to relate these drugs in any way to cannabis, which is non-toxic and adverse physiological reactions are rare."

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