‘Head shop customers are walking guinea pigs’

FOR something not fit for human consumption, it’s a strange sales pitch: “Introducing our New Party Powder, Pure NRG. This 1 gram Party Powder gives a little lift to any party and keeps you going all night long.”

That’s according to the Irish Head Stores website, which operates one of the busiest shops in Dublin and whose parent company in Britain runs an internet delivery service.

And Pure NRG seems to be attracting users here whose favourite powders and bath salts, many containing mephedrone, were dramatically taken off the shelves on May 11, after the Government suddenly introduced its ban on a range of legal highs.

Customer reviews on the website are giving Pure NRG, retailing at €35, the thumbs up.

Daniel wrote last Wednesday: “Great replacement for the charge! Not too strong, not too weak, nicer than Blowout. It kept me yakking the yak for hours, but I was able to sleep like a baby, when I eventually went to bed! I applaud the Dublin Head Store!”

Trina added on Friday: “Wow, Irish Heads Stores have done it again and very fast may I add... this is as good as the oceanic if not better!! Well done glad to see nothing can stop ya!!”

And so the predictions that new drugs would replace the banned substances have come to pass. The creativity of chemists, the demand of users, and the sheer money to be made from the business has ensured that.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin working for the HSE internet drug website (drugs.ie) have identified nine new products on sale in head shops:

* Pure NRG: A powder, containing naphyrone, a stimulant drug replacing now banned mephedrone.

* White Columbia: A powder, containing ethcathinone, a derivative of stimulant drugs called cathinones, some of which were banned in May.

* Raz: A powder, containing lignocaine, a local anaesthetic often used as a cocaine substitute.

* Energy: A capsule, containing dimethylamylamine (DMAA), a stimulant replacing BZP, banned last year.

* Entropy: A capsule, containing glaucine, a relaxant with hallucinogenic effects.

* Amplified: A powder, containing dimethocaine, a local anaesthetic with stimulant properties similar to cocaine. Also sold as Mind Melt.

* Go-E: A tablet, containing DMAA and other substances.

* Star Dust: A powder, containing fluorotropacocaine, a cocaine substitute and local anaesthetic.

* Sn*berry: A powder containing caffeine.

There were predictions when Britain and Ireland was banning mephedrone that naphyrone would take its place. A stimulant like mephedrone, it belongs to a group of substances called pyrovalerones. Mephedrone belongs to drugs called cathinones. Some, but not all, of these were banned in May.

Dr Pierce Kavanagh, a chemist in TCD’s Department of Pharmacology, said their results were tentative as identifying them was difficult and time-consuming.

“What we are encountering now is a bit of a minefield.

“Not only are there new products for sale commercially, there are loads of other compounds out there, the next generation, which are available wholesale on the internet.”

He said there were a range of amphetamines, including aminoindane, which can be bought in quantities up to a kilo, on the internet.

“They may not be on sale at the moment in the head shops, but they are the next generational compounds.”

A second ban, currently being progressed by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, is expected to include 13 other cathinones and 38 pyrovalerones.

Dr John Cryan, a pharmacologist at the School of Pharmacy in University College Cork, said there wasn’t enough Government funding to research the emerging products.

“We know very little about the effects these drugs have.

” Compounds like naphyrone are potentially very dangerous. I would have huge cause for concern.

“People are taking their life in their own hands, but people are still willing to take these drugs.

“Really they are walking guinea pigs,” added Dr Cryan.

* www.drugs.ie


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