THE current heroin drought has significant potential to cause death and serious injury for users, a drugs agency has warned.
The Irish Needle Exchange Forum (INEF) said there were reports more people were injecting heroin because the quality of the drug was so poor it could not be smoked. As reported in the Irish Examiner last Tuesday, voluntary drug agencies and HSE experts in Dublin and Cork reported a severe heroin shortage for at least the last four weeks.
Users are turning to a range of alternatives, including cocaine, crack, benzodiazepines and former head shop drugs, posing a risk to themselves and challenges to service providers. One agency in Dublin said the price of a standard heroin bag, or what was being sold as heroin, had jumped from €20 to €50 and that the price of street methadone had also risen sharply.
The INEF, an umbrella group of agencies providing needle exchanges across the country, yesterday issued a statement expressing concern about the effects the heroin shortage is having.
"The current heroin supply has significant potential to cause death through overdose and serious health problems for drug users — not only now but in the future," said Tim Bingham, INEF chairman.
He said there were reports from England of contaminated batches of heroin causing serious problems. In one case, at least 10 people were hospitalised last month after injecting a substance being sold as heroin, but containing a potentially lethal sedative called alprazolam. Mr Bingham said it was not known if contaminated batches had made it here. "Experts believe good quality heroin will most probably be back in the first half of 2011 and when that happens there are likely to be a lot of overdoses," he said.
By Cormac O’Keeffe
Thursday, December 16, 2010