Amphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. The term “amphetamines” covers several similar substances, including amphetamine sulphate, dexamphetamine and methamphetamine. Amphetamine is often sold as a powder, but can be made into tablets or capsules. Some of these drugs were used years ago as slimming tablets. They usually come as a white-grey powder, sold in folded paper packages called ‘wraps’.
Methamphetamine or “ice” comes in the form of crystals or as a liquid (“leopard’s blood”). Amphetamines can be injected, snorted, smoked or taken orally. The type known as ‘ice’ or ‘crystal’ can be smoked. Amphetamine is often “cut” with all sorts of adulterants. The purity of street amphetamines is low (typically about 5%) (National Drug and Alcohol Research Council, 1999).
Amphetamine’s primary effect is to speed up the activity of the brain and nervous system. Amphetamine increases the user’s heart rate and speeds up their breathing. Amphetamine can give users increased energy, alertness and confidence. It can also suppress the user’s appetite and make them talkative and excited. Amphetamine’s less sought after effects can include heart palpitations, anxiety and irritability. At higher doses, amphetamine can cause irregular heartbeat, headaches, dizziness and panic attacks.
Long term, heavy amphetamine use can lead to insomnia and malnutrition (resulting from the appetite-suppressant effects of the drug). Psychological and emotional problems such as depression, paranoia and extreme aggressiveness can also develop. In some cases, heavy amphetamine users may experience amphetamine psychosis, a psychological state characterised by paranoid delusions and similar to schizophrenia. Amphetamine overdose can cause stroke, heart attack, seizure, coma or even death.
As with other stimulant drugs, users experience a ‘crash’ after the ‘high’ caused by the drug. High doses of amphetamines can cause panic, paranoia and hallucinations. With long-term use, a condition known as ‘amphetamine psychosis’ can develop, with symptoms similiar to schizophrenia. The paranoia can cause people to become violent if they believe they are being threatened or persecuted.
Amphetamine psychosis can continue after the person has stopped using the drug. If a person becomes aggressive or violent, they could get into dangerous situations. The risks from injecting are the same as other drugs, such as heroin.
Some amphetamine-based drugs can be prescribed by doctors for conditions such as narcolepsy. Ritalin, a dexamphetamine, is used to treat hyperactivity in children. Other than these few specialised cases, possession, use, supply and manufacture of amphetamines is illegal.
Common Street Names
Goey, whizz, ice, uppers, go, goey, go fast, zip, rush – they are all terms used for what is commonly known as speed because they speed up the chemical activity of the brain. Methamphetamine is called “ice” or “shabu” (also “batu”, “glass” and “crystal meth”). Liquid methamphetamine is often called “ox blood”, “leopard’s blood” or “red speed”.
Benzodiazepines, or minor tranquillizers, are pharmaceutical drugs designed to reduce anxiety and help people sleep. They are also prescribed to treat epilepsy, as muscle relaxants, and to help people withdrawing from alcohol. As with other pharmaceutical drugs, some people use benzodiazepines as recreational drugs and a black market has developed. Benzodiazepines come in tablet, capsule and injectable liquid forms.
There are several different benzodiazepines, which are often known by a variety of trade names. Some of the best known trade names are valium, serepax, mogadon and rohypnol. Benzodiazepines most commonly used as recreational drugs are temazepam (normison, euhypnos), diazepam (eg. valium), and flunitrazepam (eg. rohypnol).
Benzodiazepines depress the activity of the central nervous system, as alcohol does. They make the user feel calmer, relax the muscles and can cause drowsiness and lethargy. They may also cause a feeling of isolation from one’s surroundings. In larger doses, benzodiazepines can cause confusion, slurring of speech, poor coordination and memory loss. They can lead to mood swings and impairment of judgement. Very high doses can cause unconsciousness or coma.
Long-term heavy users of benzodiazepines can become lethargic and lacking in motivation, though some become anxious and aggressive. They can suffer from nausea, headaches and insomnia and have trouble thinking clearly. Tolerance to benzodiazepines develops very quickly (within a week or two). Withdrawal from dependent use can lead to panic attacks, vomiting, depression and paranoia. Combining benzodiazepines with alcohol, or with painkillers or anti-histamines can cause unconsciousness or even respiratory failure.
Benzodiazepines are restricted substances that can be legally obtained only on a doctor’s prescription. “Doctor shopping”, that is, getting prescriptions from many different doctors, is one way that people obtain benzodiazepines excess to legitimate medical needs. Forging prescriptions is another common way of illegally obtaining large amounts of benzodiazepines. Illegally procuring or using benzodiazepines can attract fines or a prison sentence.
Common Street Names
Benzos, tranks or sleepers. Rohypnol is sometimes abbreviated to “rohies”, temazepam to “temazzies”, serapax to “serries”.
Also called: hash, hashish, weed, blow, pot, ganja, grass, THC, blunts, bush, herb, puff, resin, smoke, spliff, Afgan, Moroccan, squidgy black, soapbar, skunk, edibles, shatter
Cannabis is the most commonly used controlled drug in Ireland.
It comes from the cannabis plant and can be used in a number of ways. The cannabis plant is complex and contains hundreds of compounds called ‘Cannabinoids’.
The main psychoactive compound which gets people ‘high’ is called THC (delta9 tetrahydrocannabinol). Another well-known compound is CBD (a non-psychoactive compound which is thought to make people less likely to feel anxious and paranoid).
Plants are grown to contain different concentrations of various cannabinoids and therefore different varieties will have different effects.
In addition to the cannabinoids which are in the Cannabis plant, there are also now laboratory created cannabinoid chemicals which are called synthetic cannabinoids.These are sometimes sprayed onto dried plant material and sold in products to be smoked. They are known my many names such as ‘Spice’. They are often much more potent than cannabis and appear to cause increased side effects.
Cannabis comes in many forms, below are commonly known varieties.
Cannabis resin (hash)
Hash or resin is a black or brown lump made from the resin of the cannabis plant. It is made by separating the sticky resin from the buds and leaves and comes in blocks.
Herbal cannabis (grass / weed)
Herbal cannabis is common and is generally made from the dried leaves and flowering parts of the female plant and looks like tightly packed dried herbs in brown/green shades. In Ireland, herbal cannabis is often grown indoors using techniques involving artificial light and nutrient solutions to produce higher levels of the chemical THC. Stronger variations, higher in THC mean increases risk to the user’s mental health.
Skunk is a general term given to stronger forms of cannabis that contain more THC. This term may be less commonly used in Ireland.
Cannabis oils can vary in consistency or thickness and could be amber, gold or dark brown. Oils may be sold in droppers, syringes or capsules.
Oil extracted from cannabis plants can contain varying amounts of THC and CBD.
These are highly concentrated forms of cannabis that are extracted using a solvent. This production process is risky to perform and produces glass like ‘shatter’ with the smoking process in a pipe known as ‘dabbing’.
Cannabis ‘edibles’ are food products infused with cannabis. Edibles come in many forms—including baked goods, sweets, ’gummy bears’, ‘cannabis gummies’ chocolates and lozenges. They have many different names that include ‘space cakes’, ‘Gummies’, ‘THC sweets’. Learn more here.
Cannabis is mostly smoked in a ‘joint’, pipe or ‘bong’, or can be vaporised. It can also be made into food or tea.
How it’s consumed will impact on it’s effects. When inhaled, effects occur almost immediately. Eating cannabis products will lead to a delay in the effects, which may not reach their peak for a couple of hours. It is harder to know the amount being taken when eating products which can lead to over consumption. This can cause prolonged negative and frightening effects or cannabis poisoning which is similar to an ‘overdose’ when you take too much of a substance.
Drugs can effect each person differently, and the same drug can have different effects on the same person when used on separate occasions. The effects will depend on personal factors such as your physical and mental health as well as the dose and potency of a substance.
The onset of effects will vary depending on how the cannabis is used and the potency of the product, this could change from time to time.
The short term effects include:
Like any substance, frequent use can lead to issues for some people. Each person will have a different relationship with cannabis.
Cannabis dependency is now the most common reason for young people in Ireland (under 25 years old) to need addiction treatment, even more common than alcohol dependence.
As with all other types of substance dependence, cannabis dependence is associated with:
After prolonged use some people may experience withdrawal if they stop using. Withdrawal symptoms could include:
Tips on reducing cannabis use can be found in the Cannabis and You Resource here:
Find information on reducing the harms if you choose to use
Find a service local service here
Contact the HSE Helpline Monday – Friday 9:30 – 5:30 on free phone 1800 459 459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Slang names include coke, Charlie, snow, blow.
Cocaine is a white powder made from the leaves of the coca plant, which grows mainly in South America. It is usually used by snorting the powder up the nose. ‘Crack’ cocaine is not a different drug, but a different, more addictive form of cocaine. ‘Crack’, which is also called ‘rock’, ‘stone’ or ‘free-base’, is usually smoked. Cocaine is sometimes injected.
Cocaine is a powerful stimulant, and users feel more alert and energetic, and also feel less hungry or thirsty. These effects can last for up to 20 minutes after each use. Smoking ‘crack’ cocaine gives a shorter but more intense high.
Because of its powerful effects, cocaine users are often left craving for more. Large doses can lead to exhaustion, anxiety and depression, and sometimes users may become aggressive.
Snorting cocaine can cause permanent damage to the inside of the nose. Cocaine use can damage the heart and lungs, and high doses can cause death from heart attacks or blood clots. The depression that follows the ‘high’ can be severe, and can lead to suicide attempts. With long-term or binge use, the excitement caused by cocaine can turn to restlessness, sleep loss and weight loss. Some people can develop a paranoid psychosis where they may be violent. The strong cravings for cocaine, especially ‘crack’, can lead to an urge to take the drug all the time, and the person can lose control of their drug use.
Ecstasy, or MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine) is a drug that is similar to amphetamine in chemical structure and in some of its effects. However, it also has some hallucinogenic properties. Ecstasy is not as strong a stimulant as amphetamine, nor as strong an hallucinogen as LSD. In its original form, ecstasy is a white, bitter-tasting oil. Ecstasy is usually available in tablet form, sometimes in capsules. Tablets vary in colour, size and design. Ecstasy is usually taken orally, though occasionally it is injected. Derivatives of MDMA are often sold as ecstasy. These include MDA, MDEA (“Eve”), and PMA. Ecstasy tablets may contain varying mixtures of MDMA and related drugs (including amphetamine) as well various other substances. Many ecstasy pills contain little or no MDMA.
Ecstasy is usually produced in back-street laboratories in a number of European countries. It is sold mainly as tablets on which there are different logos or designs. Sometimes ecstasy tablets can also contain other drugs and substances.
It was originally developed as an appetite suppressant by a German chemical company in 1914. Little did they know that it would become a popular and very dangerous drug.
Like other stimulants, ecstasy causes increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature. It can also lead to increased confidence and to euphoria. Ecstasy’s most characteristic effect is a feeling of closeness to and empathy with other people and a heightened sense of touch. Clenching of the jaw and grinding the teeth are also common effects. Ecstasy can also cause nausea, anxiety, hallucinations and paranoia as well as profuse sweating, a tingling feeling and blurred vision. High doses of ecstasy can cause vomiting, convulsions and kidney failure. Overdose is characterised by very high temperatures and blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat and hallucinations.
There is little evidence on the effects of long-term ecstasy use. Users build up a tolerance quite readily, and the undesirable effects of the drug increase with time. This appears to discourage chronic, heavy use. There is some evidence that ecstasy may cause liver damage and possibly damage to brain cells. Ecstasy-related deaths appear to result from three causes: heart attack and stroke caused by the stimulant effect; overheating; and dilutional hyponatremia, where a person’s brain “drowns” from excess fluid intake.
Ecstasy users can feel more alert and in tune with their surroundings. They feel happy and calm and have a warm feeling towards other people. Sounds, colours and emotions are more intense. Users have more energy which allows them to dance for long periods of time.
Side-effects – Body temperature, blood pressure and heart-rate can rise. Other physical effects include muscle pain, nausea, jaw stiffness and teeth grinding. Some users experience severe sweating, tremors and palpitations. Users can feel dehydrated, confused and tired.
Most legal drugs are tested on animals first, but ecstasy users are human guinea pigs. Already research shows that regular weekend users experience a mid-week ‘crash’ that can leave them feeling tired and depressed, often for days. It could be years before we know the long-term effects but some users may be at risk of developing mental health problems later in life. Deaths from ecstasy are quite rare, but can be due to heatstroke, heart attacks or asthma attacks.
Ecstasy is illegal throughout Europe. There are serious penalties for possessing, using, producing or trafficking in ecstasy.
Common Street Names
E, doves, ‘E’s, ease, X, Mitsubishis, yokes, shamrocks, Adam, XTC, eccies, the love drug, the hug drug, disco biscuits.
About Headshop Substances
Synthetic cocaine derivatives drug profile
Both pFBT and dimethocaine are found as white powders. It is not clear if they are in the form of free bases or as salts.
Little is known about the detailed pharmacokinetics and pharamacodynamics of these substances in humans. Apart from any central nervous system activity, both act as local anaesthetics. User accounts on the Internet describe pFBT as being a stimulant. As with cocaine, pFBT is anecdotally reported to cause hypertension, tachycardia, anxiety and temporary psychosis.
In animals, dimethocaine produces stimulant effects and inhibits dopamine uptake almost as effectively as cocaine. However, there is some doubt as to whether it is psychoactive in humans. User accounts on the Internet note that it produces a mild stimulant effect.
Both pFBT and dimethocaine are synthetic substances available as ‘research chemicals’ from Internet suppliers or in certain ‘legal highs’ products from ‘head shops’.
Mode of use
Like cocaine, both substances would have to be insufflated (snorted) since following ingestion they would be hydrolysed by esterases in the digestive system.
There do not appear to be any specific street or user names for pFBT. In Ireland, dimethocaine has been sold in ‘head shops’ in products such as Mind Melt, Amplified and Mint Mania.
An EMCDDA ‘snapshot’ performed in January and February 2011 found that dimethocaine was offered in more than 20 online shops with prices ranging between EUR 20 and 30 for one gram. It is normally sold as a ‘research chemical’, ‘legal high’ or ‘plant food’.
Synthetic cathinones drug profile
Synthetic cathinones are mostly encountered as white or brown amorphous or crystalline powders, occasionally encapsulated. Unlike many phenethylamine derivatives (MDMA, etc.), tablets are less common but are sometimes available on the illicit market, presumably as a replacement for MDMA.
User reports on Internet sites suggest that a typical dose of mephedrone is 100–250 mg. Depending on the particular substance, the effects are claimed to be similar to those of cocaine, amphetamine or MDMA. Like cocaine, the resulting ‘high’ of mephedrone is short-lived. Consequently, users may consume several doses in succession, up to 1 g in a session. This is supported by the finding that the most common ‘wrap size’ of mephedrone found in police seizures in the United Kingdom is close to 750 mg.
Mode of use
Some users insufflate (snort) mephedrone, but most of the cathinones are ingested. Since they are soluble in water, these substances can also be injected. Because of their lability, the free bases would probably not be suitable for smoking.
To circumnavigate possible controls, suppliers of cathinone derivatives often market them under various brand names (e.g. Explosion, Blow, Recharge, etc.) as ‘plant food’, ‘bath salts’, or ‘research chemicals’, often with a printed warning that they are ‘not for human consumption’. As with the phenethylamines, acronyms are common. Thus MDPV stands for 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone, 4-FMC for 4-fluoromethcathinone (flephedrone), and 4-MMC for 4-methylmethcathinone (mephedrone). User names for mephedrone include M-Cat, meph, drone, miaow, meow meow, subcoca-1 and bubbles; while methylone is sometimes known as Top Cat. However, these substances are often sold in products that have a large number of brand names that change rapidly over time and where the specific content is often not given. The chemical names can lead to confusion; methylone, mephedrone and methedrone should be distinguished from each other and from the unrelated narcotic analgesic methadone. Although βk-MBDB is often described as ‘butylone’, butylone has also been used as a proprietary name for the unrelated barbiturate pentobarbital.
Some powders containing mephedrone and related compounds have been adulterated with other drugs such as ketamine, cocaine, paracetamol or piperazine derivatives, but most appear to be highly pure as judged by
Mephedrone and related compounds are primarily sold on websites or in ‘head shops’. The 2010 EMCDDA snapshot showed prices ranging between EUR 10 and 15 for one gram, with discounts offered for bigger quantities. In the 2011 EMCDDA snapshot prices were ranging between EUR 18 and 25 for one gram.
Heroin is an opioid or narcotic analgesic. It is made from a sticky resin secreted by the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum). Heroin is most commonly injected intravenously, but can also be smoked or snorted (alternatively, it can be heated on tin foil and the vapours inhaled, a practice known as “chasing the dragon” or “tooting”). Heroin is made from the opioid morphine (or from the synethetic opioid codeine) by a chemical process. This process produces a white, brown or pink powder or granules. Street heroin is often cut with various additives. Hence it is difficult to know the actual contents or purity of a street deal of heroin.
Heroin’s main effects are depressant and euphoric. The initial effect of heroin, experienced immediately after injecting, is a “rush” of intense pleasure and feelings of well-being. This lasts about half an hour and gives way to three to four hours of lethargy. Heroin reduces pain, hunger and libido and slows breathing and pulse rate. Blood pressure decreases and the pupils of the eyes get smaller (or “pinned”). Heavier doses cause a feeling of warmth and sleepiness. Heavy doses can also lead to nausea and vomiting. Overdoses can cause respiratory failure and death. When heroin is taken in combination with other depressant drugs (such as alcohol or benzodiazepines) its effects are magnified as is the risk of overdose.
Long-term heavy use of heroin can lead to a loss of appetite and sex drive, sexual dysfunction, pneumonia and constipation. Pure heroin is relatively non-toxic but is very addictive. Psychological and physical dependence are common results of long-term use and can lead to financial, dietary, lifestyle and health problems. Additives in street heroin can cause health problems including collapsed veins, abscesses and tetanus and even damage to the brain and internal organs.
Dependent users develop a tolerance and need higher doses to achieve the same effects. Withdrawal symptoms are similar to influenza. Babies born to heroin using mothers may be born dependent on heroin.
The side-effects of heroin and other opiates (such as morphine and methadone) include constipation and weaker breathing. However, most of the dangers of heroin come from overdose, and from injecting the drug.
What is sold on the streets as heroin often contains other substances, such as sugar, flour, talcum powder or other drugs. These substances may seem harmless, but when injected can cause huge damage to a person’s body, such as blood clots, abscesses and gangrene. The HIV and hepatitis B and C viruses can be spread through sharing injecting equipment. Addiction to heroin is often the result of regular use, especially when injected.
Methadone is used as a heroin replacement drug to treat heroin addiction. It comes in the form of a green liquid, which people drink once a day to keep away the cravings for heroin. The most serious risk from methadone is death by overdose.
Heroin is illegal throughout Europe. Heavy penalties apply to possession and supply of heroin.
Common Street Names
Smack, skag, hammer, H, horse, rock, white, beige, slow, Harry cone, China white.
Inhalants are substances which vaporise in air and which cause intoxication when inhaled. Inhalants are also called solvents or volatile substances. Many ordinary household products are inhalants. This includes glue, aerosol sprays, butane gas (from cigarette lighters), some cleaning fluids, felt-tipped pens, liquid paper, paint thinner, chrome-based paints and petrol. Inhalants can be inhaled directly from the container or sprayed into a plastic bag or onto a cloth before inhaling.
Most inhalants are depressants. Their effects are quite similar to those of alcohol or cannabis. Small amounts can have a very rapid effect. Inhalants reduce the user’s inhibitions and can cause laughter and mild excitement or even euphoria. They can also cause anxiety. Some users engage in reckless or dangerous behaviour while under the influence of inhalants. The effects of inhalants usually last about an hour. The initial excitement often gives way to drowsiness. Hangovers or headaches often occur after the initial effects wear off.
Large doses of inhalants can lead to disorientation and loss of coordination as well as nausea and diarrhoea. Habitual use can cause flu-like symptoms such as sneezing, coughing and a runny nose. Habitual users of inhalants can also suffer nosebleeds, bloodshot eyes, anaemia, weight loss and sores around the mouth and nose. Some long-term users of inhalants become irritable, depressed, paranoid or aggressive. Long-term use of inhalants can damage internal organs, the brain and the nervous system, but this damage can be reversed by ceasing use. Long-term use of aerosols and cleaning fluids, however, can permanently damage the brain, liver and kidneys but such damage is rare. Using alcohol as well as inhalants can increase the severity of inhalant-related brain damage. There is little evidence of users developing a tolerance and withdrawal symptoms are very rare.
A few deaths from heart failure have occurred from the use of inhalants, though it is not clear why. Users inhaling from a plastic bag have suffered death by suffocation.
Using inhalants is not an offence anywhere in Europe. In Europe it is an offence to supply inhalants to anyone who, it is believed, intends to misuse them. There are some restrictions on marketing of products which are likely to be misused as inhalants. Many aerosol spray cans and other volatile substances carry a warning statement about the effects of inhaling them.
Slang names include mushies, shrooms, magics and liberties.
The use of mushrooms and other plants for their hallucinogenic effects goes back a few thousand years. While it is reported that over 100 psilocybin – containing mushrooms grow freely world-wide, the most common variety in Ireland is the Liberty Cap. Magic mushrooms may be eaten raw, cooked or brewed into a tea; it is also known that they are dried out for use out of season. About 20 – 30 mushrooms would be regarded as a full dose.
The effects of magic mushrooms are very similar to an LSD experience but it is not easy to predict whether the user will have mild or a very freakish experience. This is because the strength varies depending on the mushroom species, freshness and the amount of psilocybin. The frightening effects come on after about half an hour and can last up to 9 or 10 hours.
The drug experience (trip) feeds off the person’s own imagination, so is very unpredictable and depends on the user’s mood, environment and intentions as well as the quantity taken.
Eating the wrong kind of mushroom can make you seriously ill, and can even kill. They can also have a very bad effect on anyone with underlying psychological problems.