Deadly and extremely potent synthetic drugs are “quietly revolutionising” the Irish drugs scene with killer substances like fentanyl being mixed with cocaine and ecstasy, addiction experts have warned.
“Synthetic drugs are the future,” Michael Guerin, addiction therapist with the Cuan Mhuire treatment centre said.
“Particularly synthetic opiates, like fentanyl and carfentanil, are the future of drug taking because they are so potent. And they are so easy to transport they are quietly revolutionising the whole scene.
“You can carry 10,000 doses of fentanyl in a sugar sachet.
“It’s so different from transporting boatloads of cannabis resin, these guys can carry enough fentanyl to power a small country in the breast pocket of their shirt. That’s huge."
Mr Guerin said that while people used to talk about drugs in milligrams, modern synthetic drugs like fentanyl are so lethally potent that they talk about it in micrograms - a 1000th of a milligram.
"The ease of transport alone has enormous implications," Mr Guerin said.
“The whole synthetic drugs trade will, in time to come, take over from these naturally derived substances like cocaine and heroin.
“We have anecdotal evidence of fentanyl abuse and we’re certainly hearing cases of people who are dying from accidental overdose.
Mr Guerin said that stimulants like N-Bombe, which killed Cork teenager Alex Ryan after he took the synthetic drug at a house party in Cork in 2016, are also used widely.
Alex’s sister, Nicole Ryan, founded the education and drug awareness company Alex’s Adventure to protect others from her brother’s fate after his tragic death.
“Synthetic drugs are a big issue here but for some reason no one wants to talk about it,” Ms Ryan said.
Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is known to be deadly due to its potency - up to 100 times more powerful than morphine according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention - is now being mixed with every type of illegal drug in Ireland, she said.
“I’ve heard of cases from habitual drug users who've come across fentanyl quite a bit, mostly cut with heroin.
"It's here. A lot of drugs are now cut with fentanyl because it's so cheap and it increases the potency.
“And drug dealers are getting synthetic substances and selling them as cocaine. They are playing Russian roulette with people’s lives."
Ms Ryan showed themultiple easily accessible websites selling ‘discount’ synthetic drugs that can be accessed with a quick Google search.
Ms Ryan, who talks to post-primary students about the dangers of drug use, said that many young people are now advertised to by drug dealers directly on social media.
“Some kids I see in schools say that they’re coming across these drugs by accident online.
“Drug dealers are selling through social media, particularly Instagram and Snapchat,” she said.