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File photo of a line of powder bump key therapy via Flickr

Outlawed 'headshop' drugs still available at online stores

Users reported the banned substances, which are being shipped here by online retailers, can cause memory loss and blackouts.

SO-CALLED ‘HEADSHOP’ DRUGS which were banned last year are still being shipped to Irish customers by retailers online, according to a new report.

Powders, tablets and herbal products containing psychoactive substances were sourced online by researchers at DIT compiling the report for the National Advisory Committee on Drugs. Many were advertised as food products. While more than 90 headshops around the country have closed since the Government introduced a series of pieces of legislation to limit sales last year, the research team found a “vast” number of websites selling the banned substances.

Samples of the drugs bought online were chemically analysed and found to contain psychoactive ingredients including  3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), mephedrone and 1-(3-Trifluoromethylphenyl) piperazine
(TFMPP). Mephedrone, a stimulant sometimes known as ‘meow meow’ which can cause increased heart rate and breathing difficulties, has been linked to at least 37 deaths in the UK and Ireland.

MDPV and TFMPP are also stimulants, with MDPV often sold as bath salts. It has been linked to several deaths in the US but is not known to have directly caused any of them.

Róisín Shortall, Minister of State at the Department of Health, said: “The number of headshops dropped from 102 early in 2010 to 11. While this represents huge progress in respect of availability and consumption of new psychoactive substances in Ireland, such substances continue to pose dangers, particularly to young people, through internet sales.”

The report, which was carried out during 2010, found that existing problem drug users were taking ‘new’ psychoactive substances alongside more conventional illegal drugs such as heroin. There were also a number of more recreational users – some of whom anecdotally reported side effects including memory loss, blackouts and palpitations.

The NACD is proposing that a national database on alcohol and drug use be established to collect data from hospital emergency departments, and that anti-drug campaigns should focus more on highlighting the dangers of ‘headshop’ substances.

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