A HOMELESS charity has expressed serious concern after learning that increasing numbers of rough sleepers on the Southside are intravenously using a legally available substance to get high.
This particular type of bath salts is said to cause the same adverse side effects of highly addictive crack cocaine if not used for its intended purpose.
Abusers of the herbal powder, known as 'Snow', which is legally available in some so called 'head shops' in Dublin, exhibit aggressive behaviour and suffer from hallucinations, according to the Dublin Simon Community.
Catherine Kenny, who is communications officer with Dublin Simon, said homeless people they have encountered are buying the product, which is sold in powder form as a 'bath salt'.
However, she said those who buy ‘Snow’ often snort it like cocaine and also inject it.
“For the person taking it, the substance is like cocaine but regarding the behaviour displayed it is similar to crack cocaine,” she said. “But it also lasts longer so users exhibit agitated behaviour, aggression and hallucinations. The effects of the drug can last for up to eight hours instead of two to three hours.
“We are seeing an alarming increase in users of this drug,” she added. “It is supposed to be used as a bath salt but some people snort it and the majority of the people we are encountering inject it.
“That is big concern for us, particularly since it is legally available.”
She added that Dublin Simon and other homeless charities were worried about the substance as it is a very new phenomenon and little is known about the long-term physical and psychological health effects it could have on users.
Southside People spoke to an employee at one head shop in Dublin, who said ‘Snow’ was on sale at the premises for e15 for a half gramme and e30 for a gramme.
Asked how the product was sold and how users were supposed to take it, he said: “We sell it as a bath salt. I cannot legally tell you what you can or cannot do with it but if you use your imagination I am sure you will have a laugh.”
Asked if users had suffered any adverse effects after taking the substance, he simply added: “Not that I know of”.
Tony Geoghegan, the director of Southside based Merchants Quay Ireland, which provides a range of services to thousands of homeless people and drug users each year, said he was concerned about the potential health effects of the substance.
“A number of guys have been telling me that they are injecting it,” he confirmed. “They say they love it and that it is better quality than the cocaine you can buy on the street. Also, it is cheaper obviously because it is shifting for e15 for a half a gramme in the head shops.
“It is a worry for sure because we have no idea what is in it,” he added. “People are injecting it and some people are snorting it. We haven't seen any bad physical effects from it yet. But certainly people on it can be agitated, as they are on speed or coke. I don't think it is physically addictive but as with cocaine it would be psychologically addictive.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed that ‘Snow’ was legal as it is not currently an item scheduled under Misuse of Drugs legislation. However, she said the situation, as with other products currently on sale at head shops, was under review.
“The list of scheduled substances is kept under ongoing review,” she said. “For example, in 2006 psychotropic (‘magic’) mushrooms, which were on sale in such outlets, were banned and their possession and sale is now illegal. On March 31 2009, BZP was similarly subjected to legislative control measures and criminal sanctions.”
She added that the Minister of State at the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, John Curran, who has responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy, is currently considering the options available to more effectively control the activities of head shops.
By Dublin People, Wednesday 30th of September 2009
Original Source: http://www.dublinpeople.com/content/view/2429/57/