Sudafed ‘used to make crystal meth’

Pharmacists are being warned to be on the alert for people buying multiple packs of certain over-the-counter drugs which are being used to manufacture crystal meth, a highly-addictive street drug.

Gangs, mainly thought to be Eastern European outfits, are going from chemist to chemist and purchasing common decongestants like Sudafed.

They contain pseudoephedrine, which is used in the manufacture of crystal methamphetamine.

The Garda National Drug Unit has set up an investigation into the trend and has given advice to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), which has issued an alert.

Liaison detectives in district drug units across the country have been appointed to deal with pharmacies who suspect the products are being bought for illegal purposes.

Gardaí have received information in recent months of groups of people using chemists to access the drug. Gardaí said individuals are also going to multiple chemists. Only two packs of Sudafed can be purchased at any one time.

“Gardaí have come into information that groups are sourcing pseudoephedrine this way,” said one Garda source.

Last month, gardaí uncovered a backstreet lab in Tralee where some €8,000 worth of crystal meth was found. An Eastern European man was arrested.

In their alert, the PSI said there had been growing concerns over the potential misuse of pseudoephedrine medicines.

“These concerns have included reports from a number of pharmacists reporting unusual or suspicious requests for the medicines, often by a number of people who appear to be in a group and who ask for significant quantities of the medicines,” said the statement.

It advised people to be on the lookout for requests for multiple packs or frequent requests by the same person and advises pharmacists to contact gardaí if they suspect diversion for illegal purposes.

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