New drug ‘snow blow’ linked to four deaths in Ireland

Europe’s leading drugs agency has warned about the danger of a psychoactive substance which has already been linked to at least four deaths in Ireland.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said data on the substance called a-PVP — also known as “snow blow” — indicates it is a potent psychostimulant.

The EMCDDA warned that many users are likely to become addicted to a-PVP.

The Lisbon-based centre in conjunction with Europol has issued a report which states a-PVP has been on the EU drug market since 2012 with the substance mainly being imported from China.

Such reports are only compiled when there is evidence of the involvement of organised crime and international trafficking in the substance as well as the potential for further spread and cases of serious intoxication or fatalities.

Evidence suggests a-PVP is used by both recreational and high-risk drug users, including those who inject drugs. In Ireland, it is believed it is most usually injected under the skin, although snorting the substance is more common across the EU.

It can cause a condition called “excited delirium” that involves hyper-stimulation, paranoia and hallucinations. The drug has been reported to be the cause of or a significant factor in suicides and overdoses.

Europol reported two illicit productions site have been detected in Poland, while two tableting sites were detected in Hungary.

Overall, more than 5,200 seizures of the drug have been reported across the EU with 336 recorded in Ireland — the sixth highest level after the UK, Poland, Finland, Slovakia, and Sweden.

More than 750 kg of a-PVP, which is mostly found in powder form, has been seized in total including 63 kg in Ireland — the fourth largest quantity after Spain, the Netherlands and France.

In around 35% of all detections, a-PVP was found in combination with other substances. Purity of the drug has ranged from 23% to 95%.

Evidence suggested a-PVP was being sold in some cases as ecstasy. In Ireland it has been sold as cocaine or methamphetamine.

Internet searches by EMCDDA identified 65 vendors of the drug with approximately half of the total based in China. In many cases, it is being sold online as “a research chemical” available in both wholesale and consumer amounts.

The average price for one gramme of a-PVP was €17.50. There is limited data available on average dose levels, Feedback from eight countries including Ireland showed a-PVP has been linked with 126 serious adverse events including 106 deaths.

In Ireland, a-PVP was detected in 116 cases including four fatalities. One other death in Ireland believed to be linked with a-PVP has not been analytically confirmed.


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