Irish suppliers of synthetic drugs are buying the substances through a sophisticated encrypted online system, according to a drugs researcher.
Tim Bingham said these drugs were “widely available” over the internet and said he expected the scale of the problem to get worse.
He said users “didn’t have a clue” what was in the product they might be buying from dealers here.
His comments come as gardaí and customs officers continue to investigate the importation of 23kg of synthetic drugs into Waterford City in a controlled delivery operation.
A 32-year-old man arres-ted in the city is expected to be charged in relation to the investigation. Gardaí recovered 18kg of a synthetic drug mix at an apartment in the city on Monday.
The haul is a mixture of three different substances — PVP, methylone, and flephedrone — which mimic the effects of street drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamine. It is thought to be the first time PVP has been seized in Ireland.
It is understood that in addition to the 18kg seized, a further 5kg was en route in the post.
Garda sources said there were reports of the postal system being increasingly used to import these drugs.
The man arrested had been known to gardaí in Carlow, where he received a drug conviction, but had been “under the radar” for the last three years.
They are investigating how this man had intended to distribute 23kg — a massive quantity to offload.
Mr Bingham, who runs the Irish Needle Exchange Forum, a harm-reduction agency, said he was not surprised these substances were arriving in such quantities.
“I think it will actually get a lot bigger. ‘Research chemicals’ are freely available over the web. I don’t think any country has the wherewithal to search every single packet coming in.”
He said there were websites, such as Silk Road, which were “hidden”, where people “can buy whatever they want”.
He said this website was “very sophisticated”, with encrypted payment systems, known as BitCoin. He said a number of Irish people sell substances over the site.
A recent report published by an Australian police agency warned about the booming online drug marketplace on Silk Road. It said the number of registrations on the site had jumped from fewer than 8,000 last February to 20,000 in May.
The IP address of the site is hidden. The report said the BitCoin online currency was untraceable and that the postage techniques used were highly sophisticated.
However, Mr Bingham warned: “People haven’t a got a clue what they are taking. People could be claiming they are selling you MDMA [ecstasy], but you don’t know what it is.”
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